Parent–Teen Disagreements Have Positive Results

January 6, 2012

conflict and disagreement can have positive outcomes for parents and teensIf you find yourself in frequent arguments with your teen—take heart. According to a newly published study, the right kind of disagreement may help a teen ‘just say no’ to peers when pressured to use drugs or be sexually active.

The longitudinal study at the University of Virginia looked at a diverse group of 150 teens at ages 13, 15, and 16, and asked questions of the teens, their peers, and parents about the teen’s substance use, interactions with mothers, social skills, and friendships. Researchers also observed the teens interacting with family members.

The results of the study indicate that teens who “openly expressed their viewpoints” and “held their own” in discussions with their mothers were also more likely to resist peer pressure to use drugs or alcohol or become sexually active.  The researchers particularly mentioned teens who could effectively use “reasoned arguments” to change parents’ minds about such topics as friends, grades, chores and house rules.

In contrast, teens who tried to use “pressure, whining, or insults” to get their way or those who gave in immediately without arguing, were more likely to give in to peer pressure as well.

Most people, unless conflict resolution professionals, tend to think that all conflict is bad. Parents can see their kids “talking back” as a sign of failure. On the contrary, when teens learn to stand up for a position and negotiate solutions, the skills learned carry over into better decision-making about sex, drugs, and alcohol, issues that deeply concern parents.

As a coach and mediator who helps teens and adults gain skills for communicating effectively, I often tell clients that conflict can have positive outcomes. It is challenging for parents and teens to figure out how to navigate difficult conversations successfully, but if they begin with love and a willingness to truly listen to each other, the result is far better than either yelling and dictating or just giving in.

By the way, the study said nothing about who “won” the argument. It was a respectful, effective style of communicating that made the difference for the teens.

Some information for this blog post came from the sources below:

Teens Who Express Own Views with Mom Resist Peer Pressures Best

 Familial Roots of Adolescents’ Autonomy with Peers: Family Interactions as Predictors of Susceptibility to Peer Influence–Joseph P. Allen University of Virginia (ppt.)

Lorraine Segal, communication coach, mediator, trainerThrough her business, Conflict Remedy, Lorraine Segal, provides communication coaching and mediation for parents, teens, couples and  people in organizations. Services available by telephone and Skype, as well as face to face in Santa Rosa, California. She also teaches in the conflict resolution program at Sonoma State University. Contact her to schedule a free initial 30 minute telephone consultation and see what services might be right for you. You can reach her at (707) 236-8079,  or through this blog.

© Lorraine Segal

From Anger to Open Heart with Teens

May 6, 2011

angry to heartful parent-teen discussionYou start what seems like a simple conversation with your teen, but before you even know what happened, you’re screaming at each other. How did you get to this horrible place so fast with someone you deeply love?

Our feelings are an essential part of communication and relationships, but unmanaged anger can sabotage us. When we’re angry, we can’t listen or resolve problems well, and  any loving connection is blocked.

So what can parents and teens do in the heat of confrontation to handle anger and make space for positive communication? Here are some suggestions:

Name the emotion

Ask yourself–What am I feeling at this moment? (I’m angry, frustrated, fed-up, furious). This acknowledgement diminishes the impact of emotion, helping us detach from the intensity.

Notice your physical response

Ask yourself–What is happening right now in my body? (My face is starting to get hot, my hands are clinching, my breathing is restricted, my heart is pounding). This also helps with detachment and centering.

Take regular deep breathes 

Many meditation practices teach breathing. Here is one simple exercise: Breathe in through your nose counting to three, breathe out through your mouth counting to three, then repeat with four. Think to yourself: I am breathing in peace, I am breathing out peace.

Take a time out.

Sometimes taking a short break can help us remember and apply these techniques.

These simple suggestions can help us begin to manage anger instead of letting it subvert us. It takes some practice to remember them in the crucial moment, but when we do, we open our hearts to connection and compassionate listening.

Lorraine Segal is a conflict coach, trainer, and mediator specializing in transforming communication for parents, teens, and others. Her business, Conflict Remedy, is based in Santa Rosa, California. She also teaches in the conflict resolution program at Sonoma State University. She provides conflict coaching and mediation by telephone as well as face to face. Contact her to find out about workshops, small coaching groups or to schedule a free initial telephone session. You can reach her at (707) 236-8079,  or this blog.

Some ideas for this post came from Anastasia Pryanikova, M.A., J.D.

© Lorraine Segal