How to Help Your Teen Stop Arguing and Stay Calm

Does your teen “love” to argue?

Does your teen always have to have the last word? While this behavior can be very tiring and frustrating to us as parents, if we can begin to see it as a behavior that gets activated when our teen feels stressed, then it is easier to be supportive and shift it instead of irritated. Well, you might still be annoyed, but if your response comes from a place of understanding, then it is much easier for your teen to feel heard, supported and to STOP repeating why they are right.

Let’s say your teen is hounding you to let them go to the movies. You have already said no, but they keep on coming back to it and saying you are not fair. If it feels REALLY important to them, they are probably stressed about some sort of social situation.

Instead of saying no again, you could ask some clarifying questions like:

  • Why it is so important that you go to the movies?
  • Whose idea was it to go to the movies?
  • Who else will be at the movies?
  • Is there another time that you could see this movie that works better for everyone?

These question will help uncover why going to this movie is so important. Maybe it is the last chance to see a friend for awhile. Maybe someone they like is going to be there too and this is their chance to casually be with them. Maybe this is the first time a particular person has included them.

By asking these questions, you get more insight into why going to the movie is important to your teen. Instead of yelling at them to stop badgering you, you can calmly explain why it can’t happen and help your teen brainstorm a solution to the problem. On the other side, once you hear why it is so important, you might be more willing to find a way to make it happen for them. Even if you can’t give them what they want, you validate their feelings and your teen feels supported rather than ignored which eases their stress.

While this is ideal, sometimes we can’t validate our teen’s argument. For example, maybe they are trying to justify why they didn’t follow through with a commitment and why they don’t need to apologize. These types of conversations can go round and round. As parents we need to teach our children core values and explain the importance of following through with commitments and apologizing when we don’t.

However, once we have made our position clear, a great way to end these types of conversations is to use the phrase, “Maybe so”. The trick is not to add a but statement.

  • If your teen says, “It is no big deal. You are the only one who cares about this.”
  • You reply, “Maybe so” rather than, “Maybe so but I think it was really rude.

This statement gets you out of the argument, and then if you feel like your teen didn’t hear you, you can always circle back and clarify that the apology was made.

Usually when teens start justifying, they are stuck in the Chronic Stress Loop, and they are arguing to ease their panic, such as I am not good enough or I am a loser. Helping your teen determine their top stressors and then developing a healthier replacement habit for arguing is the best way to help your teen remain at ease in stressful situations so that they don’t feel the urge to argue all the time. Need some help identifying your teen’s top stressor? Grab a copy of my Stress Less Guide here and start helping your teen break out of the Chronic Stress Loop for good.

Originally published at on June 5, 2017.

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