Dealing With the Stubborn and Argumentative Teen
You will be surprised to hear that very few teenagers actually like to argue. They're just trying to ask questions in order to find out why we do things the way we do them. Teens are starting to get interested in life and what goes on around them. In their awkward way, they are attempting to get at the reason for our actions. They form opinions and naturally wonder if our way is the only way.
While "Do it this way" or "Because I said so" might have worked with our nine year old, for the teenager this is not reason enough anymore.
Due to the teen's lack of communication skills, their questions are easily perceived as criticism by parents - and we get defensive. Some teens give up easily, surprised by the parent's reaction, if they don't get the information they were after, while others just keep on trying - and parent and teen wind up in a heated argument.
Teens are also expanding their independence and will fight to have some input and control over their lives. They want to be able to make small decisions on their own, without the parent telling them how and when.
If your teen feels he is being controlled or pressured too much he will either resort to stubbornly ignoring you and your request, or he will argue.
In fact, your teen could get so focused on breaking out from under your control and pressure that nothing else will matter to him. For example, repeatedly asking your teen to do his homework could result in him not doing his homework at all - and your teen is not considering how this will affect his grades.
One way to avoid this type of stubborn opposition is to give some control to your teen by attaching a time limit to your request. "Please finish your homework before dinner," for example, and then don't mention it again until dinner time.
Allow your teen to make decisions on matters you know he can handle, and let him know that you are ready and available if he needs help. Involving your teen in decisions about him does not take away a parent's power, but it shows your teen that you accept him as an individual and are ready to give him a chance. It also teaches him that he can indeed work with you through important life decisions.
Give your teen responsibility by assigning tasks, but step back and let him handle the situation. There is a very good chance your teen will do the task differently than you would, and for some parents it will not be easy at all to let the teen try it a different way when you know what works.
Resist that urge, let your teen experiment - and try not to tell him he is doing it wrong or that it will not work that way. Either your teenager will prove to you that there is another way to come to the same result, or he will have to admit, after several wasted hours, that your way is the right way after all.
Overall, try not to answer with a quick "No" if your teen approaches you with a request - and I know it's so easy, we are already stressed juggling job, household, and family. The last thing we need is something else to worry about. However, if you take the time to listen to your teen and his opinions, he will also be willing to listen to you and your advice.
You will be surprised how quickly you will see a difference in the way you and your teen interact.
Christina Botto, author of Help Me With My Teenager! A Step-by-Step Guide for Parents that Works has been involved with helping parents and teenagers resolve complicated issues for more than 14 years, observing and developing parenting strategies. Her website Parenting A Teenager offers a variety of tools and resources to help parents of teenagers deal with issues they are struggling with.