When parents avoid conflict with their teenager, they are avoiding some of the greatest teaching opportunities they will ever have.

Does anyone like conflict?  No. It’s not a fun or enjoyable experience; however it is necessary, and if used properly, conflict can be a precursor to change. It’s very unlikely that a lasting change will come without at least some measure of conflict and struggle. As Ben Franklin put it, “The door to success swings on the hinges of opposition.”

Conflict usually turns ugly when it is met with reluctance, insensitivity or immaturity by either party. It’s a given that our kids will act immature, so it is up to us parents to be mature and take the higher road.

Conflict in and of itself is not what produces change for the better, it is how we respond to it.

Conflict can be a force for good in families, but only if it is dealt with properly. The way we react can either deepen the relationship, or it can tear it down. Most kids simply want to know that they are being heard! Refusing to understand that, and shutting off any form of conflict, can build a wall between you.

Another way walls can build up is to belittle your teen’s thoughts and feelings. The issue may seem like a small or “black and white” matter to you, but it could be confusing and all-encompassing to them. Often when I’m working with a young person I’ll say something like, “I think I understand what you are saying, but let me try to repeat it so I am sure.”  Then, I calmly repeat back what their issue and position is.

You cannot expect your teen to respect you or your rules if you don’t show respect to them.

It’s important to acknowledge your teen’s viewpoint even if you don’t agree with it. Their view may be short-sighted, self-focused and just plain wrong, but it is still one that they are going to want to defend to the hilt.  Your response to their “side” needs to be respectful rather than reactionary, understanding versus judgmental. Even so, if their position conflicts with your rules, and it’s an important matter of character or morality, you might say, “I understand now, but I don’t agree with your conclusion, so we’re not going to follow that path. But let’s keep talking about it so I can better understand why you feel this way.”

Change comes out of relationship. Failing to listen during conflict makes it difficult, if not impossible, for positive change to occur.  More than almost anything else, I work constantly to keep the lines of communication open and to make sure relationships stay intact.  If there is a smaller issue where I can give in without compromising something vital, I do, just so they know I am listening. I don’t want young people to feel that I’m constantly “shooting them down” or turning a deaf ear to their way of thinking. They need to know that their concerns are being heard, for if there is no hope of that, they will either become deceitful and just stop talking, or try other tactics like raging or acting out their anger through their behavior.

Healthy Results of Properly Handling Conflict

Conflict presents a wonderful opportunity to reinforce your values and beliefs. All the things you have been teaching your child before are brought into focus through applying your values to real-life situations. They may not agree with it, but they can at least begin to connect the dots.

Conflict gives you a chance to get to know your child better. Sometimes during conflict, kids are more willing to open up and express themselves.  Be sure you don’t close the door during conflict and allow them to say how they are feeling. They may blurt out things they don’t really mean, or that could shock you, so don’t take offense. We’ve all said things we wish we could take back. Teens do this more often because they haven’t learned how to control their emotions. So try to understand the meaning behind the words and give grace to the actual words that are being said.