Teenagers are constantly in conflict…..

by Rod Smith

“My children, a daughter who is 17 and a son who is 19, are fiercely competitive and hardly anything either says goes unchallenged by the other. They verbally attack each other at every opportunity. Please comment?”

Talking it through in a public place.....

Try to stay out of their conflicts. I am aware of just how difficult this is but it is important that they learn to cope with each other without the services of a go-between to assist, or someone who short-circuits their unfortunate, but necessary process. The minute you “jump in” or are pulled in, is the minute you help them avoid responsibility for a conflict of their making – and become responsible for the monitoring of its outcome.

Being piggy in the middle is ALWAYS a very draining, anxiety-producing experience for piggy, especially when piggy in the middle is mom or dad.

Your son and daughter are going to be siblings for many years, perhaps for even longer than they will each know you! The sooner they learn to accommodate and love each other the better off each will be. Learning to love and accept each other will do all of their other relationships a whole lot of good.

Discerning your level of intervention will always be your call. I believe your intervention is necessary if blows are exchanged or if unabashed cruelty occurs.

Call a meeting. Have “dinner with a purpose”. Meet them in a crowded restaurant where it is unlikely that tempers will flair and where they will be unlikely to become loud or aggressive. Let them know the degree of grief you experience when they are continually at each other’s throats. Let them know how a parent feels when his or her children seem unable to get along.

Heart-to-heart conversations can go a long way to building bridges that will be necessary to one day walk cross. I do it with my own children (12 and 9) and I am always surprised at how much it means to them, and how much they take our “dinners with a purpose” to heart*. I know, I know: my children are younger and it is probably much easier when dinner with dad is something exciting. But, this is your opportunity to parent with a purpose – and I challenge you to make it happen.

* We even have “meeting chairs” in our home and we only really sit in them for “serious” or “important” conversations.

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