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10 Things to Say to a Strong-Willed Teen

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If you’re a parent of a teen, you’ve probably been frustrated over what to do when your teenager won’t listen. I hit my limit one evening. It was after dark. My teenage daughter wanted to stay outside with some of her neighbor friends, but we had called her in for the night. She complained on repeat: “Why can’t I stay? I’m the only one who has to leave that early. Why don’t you trust me? Why are you so overprotective?” And the argument dragged on. In the end, my actual response was, “I have no more words for you.”

Do you have a teen who is relentless in her arguments? Most teens are—this is true. But some seem to have a will made of Vibranium—you know, that nearly indestructible element found only in the Marvel Universe? You get to a point where you don’t know what to do when your teenager won’t listen. Here are 10 go-to responses when the conversation is going in circles.

1. “The answer is no this time. We’ll revisit the topic next time.”

When you want to temporarily close the door on the conversation, this is a great option.

2. “Let’s sleep on this and talk about it tomorrow.”

This is a good one when you sense that your teen is tired or overemotional. Help him or her get back to clear thinking.

3. “I don’t feel comfortable with that, and I love you enough to say no.”

When you want to remind him or her that your answer is no out of love and protection, not tyranny, this is a nice way to say it. And side note: This one came straight from a therapist.

4. “You are a very important person in our family, but there are __ other important people to consider too.”

Teens need constant reminders that they matter, but, at the same time, that they’re not the only ones who matter. This is a gentler way of saying “you aren’t the center of the universe.”

5. “What kind of compromise would make both of us happy?”

This will prompt your teen to stop battling you and think of ways to meet in the middle. And when teens come up with solutions themselves, they’ll be more likely to be on board.

6. “I can see how you would feel that way. I hope you can see it from my perspective too.”

Sometimes teens simply want to know that their feelings are valid. Once they do, they may be able to consider yours. I have found that this statement often works best if I walk away and provide some space after saying it.

7. “I’ll do my best to make it work, but I can’t make any promises.”

Sometimes teens forget that their parents are also human beings with limited time and energy. This statement lets teens know that you want to help, but you have limitations.

8. “Honey, I’m mentally spent for one day. I only have three more minutes to talk.”

You can put your own time limit on it, but this is helpful to say when your teen isn’t aware that you are drained. This is helpful to prevent you from overextending yourself and saying things you might regret.

9. “You are so smart. I can’t wait to see how you put this determination into your career someday.”

If you want to change the mood of the conversation, say this! It’s difficult to fight with someone who is complimenting you.

10. “When you have your own family, you can choose how your house will run, but in our house, this is what I choose.”

When all else fails, this is a lifesaver. Try to keep your voice low and calm when you say it. It’s a gentle, but clear way to remind your teen that you are the parent.

What’s your advice for what to do when your teenager won’t listen?


What’s the best way to end an argument peacefully?

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