Archives for August 2011

How to Stop Fighting with Your Tweens/Teens

The Three Fights Every Parent Has With Their Kid and How to Stop Them

by Vanessa Van Petten

When I was 16 I thought it was my Dad’s goal in life to make me miserable. I was convinced that he had a running list of all the ways he could embarrass me in front of my friends, trick me into doing more chores or make my curfew earlier. In fact we had three of the most common parent-kid fights:

1. The “It’s Not Fair” Fight

Examples:
-Older brother gets to stay out late with his friends. Teen finds this grossly unfair.
-Parent gets to have soda, child does not. Teen finds this grossly unfair.
-Teenager cannot buy new outfit for dance because it is too expensive. Teen finds this grossly unfair.

2. The “Treat Me Like A Grown-Up” Fight

Examples:
-Teen wants to be able to stay out late with friends. Parents say no. Teen thinks they are being treated like a child.
-Teen wants to go away for Spring Break, parents say no. Teen thinks they are being treated like a child.

3. The “We Are a Different Person” Fight

Examples:
-Parent wants their teen to join band, teen doesn’t want to.
-Parent expects higher grades and when teen doesn’t do well, a huge fight ensues.
-Teen does not keep room tidy, parent gets upset when guests come over.

We would have these kinds of fights over and over again until one day I saw my Dad reading a parenting book. I flipped through it while my Dad was in the bathroom and realized a lot of the things he did that drove me crazy he was getting right out of this book! I looked at the other parenting books on our shelves and realized that they were all written by adults. I wondered—has anyone ever asked teens to write to their parents?

I decided to build a website where teens could answer questions and write to parents called RadicalParenting.com. I couldn’t believe how quickly it grew and how happy both teens were to get their voices out and parents were to have a new outlet for connecting with their kids! We now have over 120 teen writers who give advice. Here is what they had to say about solving each of the common parent fights:

1. The “It’s Not Fair” Fight

Emotional Intent: When you hear a teen talk about how unfair something is, what they are often feeling is, “I am not important or special enough.” If you feel like your teenager is constantly arguing about justice or fairness, they are most likely feeling like they are not being heard or cared about enough to get what they want. Of course, this is usually not the case. In the examples above parents would be worried about safety, health and money, while teens feel like they are not as important as their sibling, that their parents do not understand how important the dance is, and so on.

Solutions: The best way to stop the “it’s Not Fair” fight is to address the emotional intent. The best way to do this is for parents to push into the “it’s not fair” feeling from their children instead of pushing against it. For instance in the new outfit example a parent might say to their teen, “I hear you think this is unfair, will you tell me why?” A teen will most likely respond, “You buy stuff for yourself all the time,” or “But I deserve this dress.” These answers are important because it will show the parent the emotional intent behind the upset and feelings of injustice. If a parent addresses these by saying something like, “I could see how you feel like us not buying this for you is about you not feeling worthy. But the truth is we are trying to save for the big vacation we are taking this summer—which is for all of us. I know how important this dance is for you. Maybe we can get you a new pair of shoes or…” then the fight is stopped.

2. The “Treat Me Like A Grown-Up” Fight

Emotional Intent: Most fights during the teen years are actually based in this ‘treat me like a grown-up’ motivation. The earlier you can catch and address it the better it will be. It derives from the fundamental pulling away that comes with a teen trying to assert their independence.

Solutions: It is very important for parents to discuss reasons for decisions that are making a teenager angry. This way teens are sure to understand the real reasons for a parent’s choice. Another great way to help teenagers get less upset in fights surrounding their maturity is for parents to help teens feel mature in other ways. For example, perhaps parents do not want their teen to go away for the whole Spring Break because they want to have family time. A great way to address this with teens is to say clearly, “We really want to have family time with you, but we know you are getting older, so how about you do a weekend camping trip with your friends for one of the weekends.” This teaches teens you trust them, but it is all about balancing needs.

3. The “We Are a Different Person” Fight

Emotional Intent: Often times teenagers tell me that they will purposefully keep their room dirty or choose unapproved hobbies just so they can be different from their parents. Parents frequently misinterpret room cleaning or bad grades for laziness, when something deeper might be going on. Teenagers often will ‘misbehave’ or fight with parents simply to show them that they are their own person—even if it gets them into trouble.

Solutions: First, it’s important to make sure that you do want your child to be their own person. Be careful not to push expectations or your own goals onto your kids. Second, make sure teenagers know that some of the requirements you have for them (good grades a tidy room for guests) are not to make them feel less like an individual, but for them to have more choices in their future and to present a nice home to guests. I recommend parents being very direct with teenagers about their need to be ‘their own person’ you might be surprised what common fights are actually based in this emotional intent.

I think teens and parents can work together to overcome their differences and learn to work best together. We have just come out with our book: Do I Get My Allowance Before or After I’m Grounded and it is a radical approach to parenting because it is written from the kid’s perspective! We would love for you to check it out—if you are brave enough to see what kids have to say!

BOLD IN ST. LOUIS

BOLD is a global arts-based movement inspiring communities to create childbirth choices that work for mothers.

BOLD IN ST LOUIS

Local volunteer community organizers came together in 2009 to support the first reading of the play, Birth, by Karen Brody in St. Louis. Then, in 2010, volunteer organizers and sponsors built on their former success and hosted the first ever local full production of the play. Watch the 2010 cast in this inspiring short film of the play by RaileeProductions:

Plans for 2011 include another full production of the play, Birth, on August 28th, 2011 at the Tap Room in downtown St. Louis! Click here for more information on how you and/or your organization can get involved!

Karen Brody wrote Birth after interviewing 118 women across America about their birth stories. The play tells the story of eight of those women, representing the spectrum of experience among low-risk, educated, birthing women in the US today. Each performance is followed by a talk-back, giving audience members a chance to discuss pertinent issues from the play.

BOLD, initially called Birth On Labor Day, was founded in 2006 by playwright Karen Brody. Brody offered cities around the world the opportunity to perform her documentary-style play called Birth as part of BOLD. Her goal was to use the play to “make maternity mother-friendly.” Well-known women’s health expert Dr. Christiane Northrup called the play  Birth, “The Vagina Monologues for birth,” a label it has lived up to through BOLD.

BOLD runs three core programs: Performance and Talkbacks of the play Birth, Red Tents events, and the College Campaign. BOLD programs raise awareness and money in local communities to improve childbirth choices for mothers and have raised over $115,000 to date. This grassroots initiative reaches over 20,000+ women, men, children and families (and growing!) every year through local events like ours. For more details on the play and the national event, please visit the national BOLD web site at www.boldaction.org