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5 Ways to Stop Arguments with your Teen/Child

Arguments can be stressful and draining for both parents and children. They can strain your relationship over time and create tension at home. As a child therapist, I often see defiance as an instigator for arguments which makes parents feel like they are losing the battle. 


Here are five ways to foster more connection, rather than correction. 


  1. Practice Active Listening

When your teen or child feels heard and understood, they're less likely to become defensive or argumentative. You want to provide empathy and to see things from their perspective. What is the need behind the behaviour and defiance? Is it control? To feel understood? Are they anxious? 


  • Focus on them: provide your full attention when they are speaking and remove distractions. Offer an understanding, open, and non-judgemental space.

  • Validate: acknowledge their feelings and either ask if they want advice or just an ear. For example, "It sounds like you're really upset about the homework load. That must be stressful. Shall we break it down?"

  • Avoid Interrupting: let them finish their thoughts without interrupting. This shows respect and allows them to fully express themselves.


2. Use Positive Reinforcement

Positive reinforcement can be a powerful motivator for confidence, teamwork and less defiance. In parental consulting, I encourage parents to acknowledge your child’s behaviours and provide motivators. 

  • Praise Specific Behaviours: be specific about what behaviour you’re praising. Instead of saying, "Good job," say, "I really appreciate how you cleaned up your room without being asked."

  • Reward Effort, Not Just Outcomes: recognize the effort your child puts into tasks, regardless of the results. This provides a moment of self-reflection, growth mindset, and improves confidence. 

  • Create a Reward System: when working with defiance, develop a personalised system where your child can earn rewards for teamwork - such as extra screen time, a special treat, etc.


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3. Model Calm Behaviour

Children learn a lot by observing you and often copy your reactions and coping skills. By modelling calm responses, patience and regulation, you teach your child how to handle conflicts and express effectively.


  • Stay Calm: regulate yourself when feeling frustrated or impatient. Take deep breaths, count from 10, pause, take space, and think before you speak.

  • Show Respect: treat  your child with the same respect you expect from them. Avoid yelling, name-calling, or belittling.

  • Apologise When Necessary: if you overreact or make a mistake, apologise to your child. This shows them that it’s okay to make mistakes and that it’s important to make amends and reflect back on the conversation on how to do better next time. 


4. Set Clear and Consistent Boundaries

Children and teens thrive in environments with structure, boundaries, consistency and schedules. Setting clear and consistent boundaries helps prevent misunderstandings and reduces the potential for arguments. I see this with child and teen patients who struggle with anxiety and ADHD; and the positive impact this has on them. 


  • Communicate Simply and Compassionately: respond with understanding and compassion while explaining simply and clearly. Keep it to the point! Remember: respond not react.

  • Be Consistent: keep schedules, decisions, boundaries, rules and positive or negative consequences consistent. 

  • Be Fair and Reasonable: ensure that the boundaries you set are appropriate for your child's age and maturity level. Be open to discussing and adjusting rules as they grow.


5. Connection 

As a family therapist, I highly encourage parents to  foster connection as a way to improve communication, self-esteem, the relationship with your child/teen, and lower anxiety and loneliness. 


  • One on one time: spend more time with your child and teen by doing things they enjoy, just sitting with them and talking, or doing an activity, etc. Take distractions away and truly be present.  

  • Be Curious: be intrigued in your child’s life, ask open ended and deep questions, listen attentively, and respond with true curiosity and interest. As well as in difficult moments. 

  • Acceptance: acknowledge that your child or teen is an individual with their own opinions and thoughts. Allow them to make choices, express themselves, show independence and compromise.This builds resilience and confidence. 


Reducing arguments with your teen or child is about creating a respectful, understanding, and supportive environment. It is to connect and bond with your child and teen. Remember, it's normal to have disagreements. With these strategies, you will effectively  manage conflicts and strengthen your relationship and communication. 


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