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5 Keys to Healthy Debate with Your Teen

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For those of you wanting to know how to stop arguing with your teenagers, you need to consider this first. Teens are naturally predisposed to argue. It’s actually part of their intellectual development. And while the constant questioning and debate can be tiresome to a parent who just wants to be obeyed without a fuss, don’t be too quick to shut down the conversation. Those moments of debate can be formative moments where you help your child learn to think and apply core values to real-life situations.

Here are 5 keys to a healthy debate with your teen.

1. Respect is non-negotiable.

While it’s fine to debate, it’s never OK to use a disrespectful tone of voice or attitude. It’s not enough to just demand that your child show you unilateral respect. You must also demonstrate respect and patience for his ideas in your voice, facial expressions, and choice of words. Set the tone and insist that they follow suit, or the discussion is over.

2. Listen and speak in turns.

Resist the urge to interrupt your child while she’s speaking, and require the same courtesy of her. It takes some discipline to wait until they’re finished making a point to offer your counter-point, but it’s the only way to communicate with fairness.

3. Get ready to connect the dots.

All of your parenting decisions should be traceable back to a core value or belief. Be able to connect those ideas for your child. If something they’ve asked to do presents a likely risk or runs counter to one of your fundamental values or family rules, flesh that out. It’s not enough to offer the “because I said so” parental mantra. In doing this, you’ll not just win the argument; you’ll help your child learn to assess things in a similar way. Start from a key value, and let that inform them on what is right and what is wrong, based upon logic and reason.

4. Be willing to concede a point every now and then.

When your teen makes a compelling or well-reasoned argument, be willing to give him credit and concede the point. It doesn’t mean that you’ll overturn your decision or come to the ultimate conclusion they desire. But if you never give an intelligent child credit when he knows he’s made a salient point, he’ll see your “discussion” as a farce.

5. Know when it’s over.

Sometimes your child doesn’t want to debate in an effort to understand; they want to debate as a way to complain. When you’ve given them an opportunity to make their point, and you’ve made yours, you’ll often find yourselves still in sharp disagreement. At this point, further debate isn’t wise or helpful, and you have to do what you think is best. At the end of the day, you’re still the parent, and she’s still the child.

Tell us! What is the hardest part of debating your teen?


When you argue, are you trying to understand the other person or win?

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