I'm sure many parents are happy to receive help with some ways to manage an argumentative teen.
Popular culture has sold us an idea of parenting that I don’t find very convincing at all: teenagers are scary and hard to handle. I’m pleasantly surprised to find that many kids like to be argumentative but respond to reason and fairness—usually, or at least often enough to make things run smoothly. I guess I shouldn’t have been surprised. As a kid, I was argumentative—annoyingly so. I’m kind of making this work for me. Here are some tips for managing an argumentative teen you may want to try with your quickly growing bundles of joy.
1. One Makes Parts, the Other Chooses
This is a fairly well known way to make sure that two people will share fairly. One kid divides the “object” to be shared and the other selects first. If your kids like fairness they will likely agree to this way of sharing. It also works with three kids. One makes the divisions, under the supervision of another. The third kid chooses first; the supervisor goes second and the divider chooses last.
2. If You Are Not Contributing to Doing the Laundry, Your Clothes Will Not Be Included
At this age, kids are usually into clothes and if they respond to fairness, they will understand that chipping in makes sense. Laundry is an easy to split chore with different levels of difficulty. I can still be in charge of sorting, while the youngest kid may start by just moving clothes from the washer to the dryer, and/or delivering the folded clothes to the proper room.
3. Make a Decision or You’ll Abide by Mine
If your kids start arguing and cannot come up with a decision, tell them that after a certain amount of time, you will be making the decision for them and they will most likely not like it. For example, if they can’t decide what song to play on the radio, YOU will choose the station. If they can’t agree on who goes in the shower first, you will make the decision for them.
4. Determining the Severity of the Argument
When trying to decide the importance of an argument, think, “Will this matter in a week/month/year?” The length of time depends on the degree of the transgression, of course. Something that won’t even matter in one day is for sure not something worth getting too upset about. The things that will matter even years from now are “non-negotiables”. That’s why face tattoos are MOST DEFINITELY non-negotiable, and hair length is a non-issue.
5. Some Things May Be Resolved by a Vote
Of course the age of your kids is very important for this one. I found that my kids really appreciate when they have some input into rules, and many times it actually helps me to put things to a vote. There is a psychological cost to making decisions—the paradox of choice—and sometimes the savings are worth it.
By the way, I have veto power, and that is also non-negotiable ☺