Use Repetitive Logic to Keep Your Teen From Arguing

As the second semester was recently starting (I teach 9th and 10th grade English in a public high school in southern California), a few of my students were moving around in terms of classes, but most of them were staying put in one of my sections. I spent a few days doing some team strengthening exercises and reviewing rules and expectations.

One of the areas that I spent time talking with my classes about was the idea that I'm not there to debate with students. We all know that teens and adolescents naturally start to rebel, That part of that rebellion is they start to have "an attitude" and talk back. I've found that there are two main ways to deal with this:

1. Pick and choose your battles. If it's not important, a stock answer like, "Because I asked you to and I need you to do what I ask", is an option. If your teen tries to keep the "debate" going, change the subject, or smile and don't answer.

2. Most things that teens debate have some kind of simple answer. Don't underestimate the simple. Sometimes simple things have the most meaning.

For example, I start off the school year by asking where the students want to go and what they want to do after high school. I start this by asking if anyone is planning on dropping out of high school. No hands usually go up. I usually lead the discussion into something like, "So can we agree that everyone has the same goal: to graduate high school?"

The kids usually agree. I quickly explain the role of English in the larger picture of graduation. Then I'm done. That's it. I make sure to end the segment by saying, "Remember your group's goal." For the rest of the year, when there is a behavior issue or a debate about why an assignment is given, I always go back to "Remember your group's goal."

It's doesn't solve everything, but the kids remember that they got to "Remember your group's goal" by agreeing that they had the shared goal of graduating. What does this mean for you as the parent of a difficult teenager? Develop your own logical reminder like, "Remember your group's goal."

For example, the first time your teen challenges you on having to take out the trash, lead them down a simple chain of logic:

"We all work pretty hard in this house, me and your mom with work, and you with school and sports, would you agree?"

(Get some agreement)

"I like our house, and when people come over, I like it to look nice. It's your house too and don't you think when it's clean, it's pretty nice?"

(Get SOME sort of agreement)

"We all have things we are responsible for, and we're all tired a lot of the time. The only way we can all do all the things we do is if we work together. It would be a nightmare if I asked you to do all of the housework, don't you think?"

(Again, get some agreement)

"So, our family's goal is that we work as a team so that all of the jobs get done and we have a nice life. How does that goal sound to you?"

(Let your teen respond. Regardless of what they say, keep the chain going.)

"So when you're tired and you don't want to take out the trash or you don't think you should have to, try to remember our family's goal, okay? Could you please take the trash out now?"

That's it. You put, "Remember our family's goal", in place. When the debate starts, don't engage. Use the line. You already did the work and led them down the simple logic chain. Now just remind your teenager on a regular basis.

They will get sick of hearing it. They might even mock you for it. It won't work for EVERYTHING (nothing does), but it's something you can experiment with. Try to avoid sounding like a therapist, so don't take EXACTLY what I have above. Change it to fit you and your teen.

Bryan Stoops is a public high school teacher in southern California. He has been teaching public intermediate/high school for the past six years. Bryan has a master's degree in education from the California State University System, and is almost done with two years of course work on his doctor of education degree at the University of La Verne, one of California's oldest private colleges. Bryan is also a busy husband and father of a toddler. Visit Bryan's site at [] for more free articles and to get Bryan's free report on parenting troubled teens.

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