How to deal with an argumentative teen 

by | Mar 9, 2021 | Parenting, Teenagers | 2 comments

Naturally, you want to see your teen happy and successful. You have wisdom and experience that she doesn’t have so of course you want to share your advice and help her learn important life-lessons. But, when you try to impart your wisdom and support, she flies off the handle. She tells you that you don’t understand. She blames, criticizes, and rejects. It can be exhausting! 

As your teen moves through adolescence, she gains a sense of capability. She begins to recognize what problems she can solve on her own and when she needs support. This awareness is essential to successful independence and parents play an important role. If you are jumping in to share advice or telling her how to solve problems, you are not giving her a chance to discover how to do it on her own.   

So, how do you show your teen you believe in her ability to handle life’s challenges and how do you find the right time to offer guidance? 

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Know Your “Parenting Moments” 

For a teachable moment to land well with your teen, choose your moment.   

First, you need to calibrate with your teen. Tune into how she is feeling and what she really needs at that moment. If she’s worked up and angry, she will not heed the advice and needs time to calm down.  If she is arguing her point, she is asking to be heard, not told what to do.  

Identifying the “wrong” moments may be easier than identifying the right ones, so a helpful rule of thumb, is to ask your teen if she would like your advice or opinion. It may feel unusual at first, but it sends a message to your teen that you believe in her and you are there to support her, not do it for her.  It empowers her and invites her to consider how to use her own resources. Try simple questions like, “Would you like to know what I think?” or “I have some ideas about how you might deal with this situation. Would you like to know what they are?” This gives her the option to explore solutions on her own with the knowledge that she can come to you if needed.  

When it feels impossible to get through

If you are a parent who struggles with day-to-day communication with your teen, it may be time to take a close look at what led you to this place. Is there a crack in the foundation of your relationship? What needs to be repaired? In my coaching experience, repairing a splintered foundation begins with reassessing respect. Examine what respect means to you and how you show it to your teen. Consider how her needs have changed since childhood and how she may need to be respected differently. Begin to make shifts in your parenting approach that demonstrate respect. Keep in mind that as you do so, you are modeling for her the behavior you wish to see. 

If the relationship and communication cracks are deep, it can be extremely helpful to involve a third party in the rebuilding process.  Family or parent-teen coaching can help redefine respect,  deepen empathy, and strengthen the lines of communication. A former teen client put it, “It is hard for a teenager to communicate with their parents. Erica was able to help me figure out how to communicate what I wanted and needed from my parents and understand what they wanted and needed from me. Before that it was like we were speaking two different languages, they didn’t understand and I didn’t understand.”

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  1. Great article! I especially resonated with, “If you are jumping in to share advice or telling her how to solve problems, you are not giving her a chance to discover how to do it on her own.”

    So true and so hard in the moment when we are both triggered. I find I can do this better during a repair process, after we’ve both given our threatened parts a chance to recenter and feel safe again.

    So important to let them struggle, and so challenging as a Mom! I’m trying to remind myself that learning is messy and sometimes uncomfortable and that’s OK to sit with…for both of us.

    Thanks for your work!

    • Hi Allison, thank you for sharing your experience. You are so right- learning can be messy and uncomfortable but going through that discomfort is part of the process and so important to growth. Sounds like you are on the right track with your teen.


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