When it Comes to Teens - To Argue Or Not to Argue

I've been a high school teacher for three years, a junior high teacher for two, and now I am back to high school for my sixth year of teaching.

I've heard it over and over again: "Never argue with a teenager."

It's been handed down like gospel truth. But I don't think it's as simple as that.

As a school teacher, I DO like the idea that you need to figure out how to pick your battles and which things you can let go. One of the biggest problems that teachers and parents have is that they have expectations of being in control of 100% of their teens' actions.

I have learned that despite all of my education and all of my skills, NO ONE CAN BE IN CONTROL OF 100% OF WHAT TEENAGERS DO.

That being said, I try to pick and choose my battles. Some issues I let go immediately, and some things are worthwhile to me to talk, or argue, about with teenagers for as long as it takes for me to feel like I've expressed myself.

The recent presidential election brought about an incident with a teenage relative of mine. There was a state proposition that I found to be particularly hateful.

The teenage relative had the same perspective on the presidential candidates that I did, not that I need everyone around me to agree with all of my ideas in life.

When it was announced that the proposition had passed, I and a lot of other family and friends in the room, were a little shocked. The teenager raised his fists in triumph.

I spent the next several minutes explaining why I thought the proposition was wrong, and the teenager engaged me in a debate that bordered on being an argument.

I knew I wasn't going to change his mind, and that wasn't the point. It was an issue that was important to me and I was not willing to let it go. At the end of the conversation, I was no closer to making the relative see my point of view, but I didn't care.

It was an issue that was important to me, and I chose to engage on the topic, knowing that I would not change the teen's mind.

What I did want him to know was that I had an opinion that was contrary to his and it was on an important issue. I wasn't willing to "let it go" because the conversation was going to turn out to be "pointless". I didn't care.

If you're struggling with your relationship with your teen, ask yourself, "What are the little things that I can let go, and what are the things as a parent and a human being that I WON'T EVER look the other way on because they are too important to me?"

Sorry to use a political example (and if you know what proposition I'm writing about and you are on the other side, I would really enjoy having a conversation about the issue and expressing our different points of view in a civil way, what could be more American than that?) but I want you to think about what issues and rules and ideas that have to do with your teen are that important to you.

If you get in the habit of giving up on every discussion because it's "pointless" your teen is never going to get the values and the morals that you are trying to give them to turn them into good people.

So, choose carefully, but when the time is right and you refuse to look the other way, argue away. The "point" is that your teen needs to know what is important to you, whether they agree or not.

© 2009 Bryan Stoops, M.A., ED. -

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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