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Reacting to Power Struggles with Your Teen by Keeping the #1 Goal in Mind


power struggle, teens, parenting

Mom in the middle of a power struggle with her teen son. Note the crossed arms.

Getty Images / SW Productions

Quick Links: All Discipline and Teens Resources | Quiz: Is your teen a slacker?

Many power struggles and arguments parents have with their teens could be totally avoided by changing the way you react to what your teen is saying or doing. Not that you are to blame for your teen's behavior - you're not - but, this isn't about blame. It's about learning strategies that work with your teen to get them to do things that will lead them to be successful in their lives. That's the number one goal.

I'll explain how to react to a teen who is procrastinating for an example. Here is an everyday example parents can relate to, I know I have had this problem creep up on more than one occasion: Your teen is watching television instead of completing their daily chore of cleaning the dinner dishes. You get frustrated and yell. Your teen then yells back and an argument ensues. By the time you are done, there are bad feelings on both sides and the dishes are still dirty. To make matters worse, you feel you will be having the same argument with your teen the following night and every night after that. Not a fun daily prospect for any parent.

Let's take a look at what you could do to change the situation by changing how you react to your teen. First, you'll want to make your expectations of the responsibility clear to your teen before you are facing the situation. In this instance, since it is a nightly chore for your teen, you may want to set up a contract writing out what is expected to be cleaned and how it is tied to your teens allowance or other privileges like watching television or being on the Internet. Having a conversation will work here as well, but writing it down will help everyone remember what was agreed on.

When dinner is finished and it is time for the dishes to be done, ask your teen if they are okay with the chore they need to do. Do they need help with anything in particular? For instance, do they need to know how to scrub a nonstick pan? Being courteous to them shows that you care about them and the chore they need to complete. Plus, you would be surprised at how many teens do not know how to do the things that are asked of them even when they have seen you do the task a million times. After they have completed the chore, be sure to thank them. If something wasn't done correctly, help them get it done. If it happens more than once, add that particular thing to the contract and follow through with it like the rest of the chore. This process will become a good habit for them.

But what if it doesn't go that smoothly? What if your teen doesn't comply even when you do all the necessary preparation of making your expectations clear, etc.? What if you still find yourself in a power struggle with your teenager? First take your emotions out of the situation. Remain calm and remember the goal. It's not to win a fight and 'make' your teen behave at this one particular time. The goal is to teach them life lessons about responsibility. Using a calm and firm voice, let your teen know that if their chore isn't started within 30 minutes, you will do it for them and they will have to deal with the consequences you agreed on in the parenting contract or during your conversation when you set up the responsibility. Then walk away and let your teen make their own choices. Worst comes to worst, you will have to do the dishes until they understand that their privileges are attach to their responsibilities. If it takes longer than a few days, there may be other factors involved and you'll need to seek help.

What is truly important to note here is that you don't hurt your teen's self-esteem when you react to them in this fashion. You have actually help build it because you've turned the ownership of the responsibility over to them. And while it may be difficult to react this way at first because it doesn't seem quite right, the benefit of never having to deal with that particular power struggle is worth it.

Quick Links: All Discipline and Teens Resources | Quiz: Is your teen a slacker?

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