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Today’s Teen Issue12345

It Takes Two to Tangle

It's inevitable. You will get into disagreements with your teen. And because teens are governed by their ​emotions, as we have previously identified, these ​disagreements will often manifest themselves verbally: yelling, screaming, hurling epithets, etc.

Think of a tug-of-war with you on one end and your teen on the other. Each side pulls and struggles, gaining an inch here or an inch there until one or both parties end up in the mud. There's another, better way to end a tug-of-war. You simply let go of the rope. Without the other person, there is no tug... and no war.

What we're talking about here is the silent treatment. It's a quick and simple remedy to the argumentative teenager. And silence makes anyone ​uncomfortable, especially teenagers. This is particularly effective when teens are at their worst - swearing, yelling, threatening to move out, etc.

The reason this works has to do with how the brain operates during and after a verbal confrontation. While an argument is in progress, there is little time for reflection in the teenage brain; it's all emotion, all the time. However, after the argument passes, the brain tends to replay the conflict and assess it by "reviewing the tape." If there is only one voice on the tape - the teen's - the reflective part of the brain stands a chance of learning from it. However, if your voice is on that tape, too, chances are the teen will think himself or herself justified in the argument and nothing will be learned.

Although it is simple to understand, the silent treatment isn't easy to implement. While teens are governed by their passions and adults tend to be more rational, it doesn't mean we are devoid of emotions altogether. Far from it! This is why it is so tempting to let the emotions fly in an argument with an adolescent. After all, we have more experience and wisdom. We've been teenagers and graduated to adulthood. And there is a ninety-percent chance we're right and our teen is wrong. So it's understandable why we'd want to "let 'er rip." But if we do, though we may win the argument (in our minds, anyway) in the short term, we stand to lose the war in the long term by building a wall between us and our child, brick by argumentative brick.

Teaching Activity

The Silent Treatment

This teaching activity is simply to put the silent treatment into operation the next time you and your teen have a disagreement that becomes heated. It will be difficult. It may not succeed the first time. But you must persevere. It should be noted that the silent treatment can't simply be a case of you leaving the room (though this is still preferable to engaging in argument). Instead, you must remain in the room, but silent. This will have an unnerving effect on teens. They simply are not accustomed to having their parents in their physical presence and saying nothing. You'll find that in most cases, your teen's verbal bluster will quickly run out of steam.

Social Skills

Disagreeing Appropriately

All arguments arise from disagreement - and disagreement is a natural part of life. We are all human and individual, and we often see things differently than others. The key to not letting a simple difference of opinion escalate into a full-blown war of words is to know the steps to the skill of Disagreeing Appropriately:

  • Look - at the person.
  • Use - a pleasant voice.
  • Say - "I understand how you feel."
  • Tell - why you feel differently.
  • Give - a reason.
  • Listen - to the other person.

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