Have you ever noticed that arguments with your teenager can explode surprisingly quickly? Sometimes it happens when you are least expecting it. All of a sudden you are faced with raging emotions, sharp words and shocking disrespect. It can feel like an intense battlefield with land mines that are difficult to spot.
Every family has fights and arguments.
This is normal. You probably realize this, but you may wonder if your family is more dysfunctional than everyone else. The truth is that fighting can be a good sign of healthy relationships. However, the way you handle these conflicts is incredibly important. Words are powerful and they can do serious damage to your relationship with your son. Think about what can happen if you don’t fight fair and things get really nasty.
What do you have to lose?
- You can lose your teen’s respect for you.
- You can lose your influence in his life.
- You can jeopardize your current and future relationship.
It turns out you have a lot to lose. Can you regain respect, influence and a positive relationship? Of course you can, but it can be amazingly difficult. Your words and actions have a definite impact and you can’t rewind time and erase those painful moments. Unfortunately, it is often the negative experiences and the harsh words spoken that we remember the most.
This stuff is important.
Your teenager may seem to reject your advice and the wisdom of your years. However, he is paying attention. Over the years, he has learned from you how to cope with the stress of life, how to manage priorities and responsibilities and how to deal with relationships and conflict. This may be a mix of positive and negative lessons learned. This is true for all of us.
Recently, I asked my 8 year old daughter what was one of the most important things I have ever taught her. The answer: arm farts! Not at all what I was expecting, but a definite reminder that my kids are soaking up my lived example.
If kids are like sponges, then teenagers are like investigative reporters. They are observant and aware. They take mental notes and are surprisingly sensitive to criticism and feeling shame. You may find that your son is less forgiving towards you than he was at age 5 or even age 10. It might take more time to bounce back from a fight than it used to.
The fact is that you play an important role in your son’s life during these teen years. You are more of a role model than you realize. The way you choose to handle these inevitable arguments and fights will determine the success of your relationship. It will also affect the way that he learns to handle conflicts in his future friendships and more importantly his romantic relationships.
There are many land mines to dodge during these years and learning to fight fair is one of the best ways to survive.
So, what can you do today to improve your chances?
- Recognize the importance of how you handle fights with your teenager.
- Recommit yourself to maintaining your calm and fighting fair.