How to handle a conflicted teenager

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"But who is that stranger camping out on the sofa?" or better still "Who is this alien wandering in my house?": these are just some of the phrases that parents of adolescent children find themselves saying to each other, especially if the young people in question have a strong tendency to quarrel. How can we manage the relationship with these, in some ways "new", children who are at home? We asked Laura Petrini, trainer and pedagogical counselor of the CPP.

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How to handle a conflicted teenager

"First of all, let's try to understand what adolescence is: after a period, childhood, in which contact, intimacy, caresses and care are part of the parent-child relationship, arrives adolescence, which in some ways is like a second birth: the boy, very different from the loving child we remembered, manifests a healthy need for detachment from parental figures ". What do mom and dad see? "A son who is moving away, who" doesn't say anything to me anymore, almost as if he were ashamed of me. " If you see this you can rest assured, everything is normal. Your child is deciding on the spur of his physical and cerebral development that the time has come to "untie himself", to experience himself as an individual separate from you. Your task is to lead him towards adulthood ».

But how do children try to detach themselves from the world of adults, which represents their childhood? «By entering into conflict. Let's start by saying that a conflicted teenager is a normal, healthy teenager».

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How the teenager comes into conflict

How does the teenager come into conflict with the parents? “In any way, for example by breaking the rules that were valid until the day before yesterday. An example? If until yesterday the scheduled return time was respected from one day to the next, this can become a breaking point. Or he can be daring in clothing, choosing combinations that you think are inappropriate, or with friends, preferring companies that you would never have chosen for him ».

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How to manage conflict with teenagers

How then to manage this inevitable and necessary conflict? "A lot of work must be done first, in childhood and then in pre-adolescence. An educational management based on rules and organization should be set in advance because then in adolescence the conflict will be on the agenda ». Let's see some passages that may be useful for parents to keep in mind.

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1 - Enough with the "confidant parent"

«Let's dispel the myth of" my son tells me everything "and of" we are like sisters ". To manage the conflict, a shortcut might seem to be that of becoming "friends" with one's children with the idea that education is a matter of good relationship, dialogue and confidentiality. This is a big mistake. What they need is not to have confident parents, but to have reference adults able to face and manage the conflict they are "healthy" carriers ».

2 - Be present, but keep the right distance

Connected to point 1, it is important to ensure one's presence "but at the same time a sort of safety distance must be kept:" I am here but it is you who must find out what person you want to be, you can do it alone even if this requires commitment and fatigue". This is the message we need to convey. It is a question of adopting more and more a paternal educational code, which is able to encourage, guide and, when necessary, establish limits ».

3 - Learn to negotiate

Family rituals continue to be important at this stage but it becomes necessary to learn to negotiate on some rules by recognizing that the child has new needs. "An example? The return time. The adolescent has a growing need to interact with the peer group and we must take this need into account when we establish the rules for re-entry. It is therefore possible, on certain occasions, to authorize an exceptional exit rather than a return later, knowing, however, that there are borders to guard. "We need to know who you are and who you are going back to but we can negotiate on other aspects, such as the expected time to go home" ».

4 - Establish rules and not give commands

In the negotiation we try to make them participate in the agreement we propose: «it is useless to give commands or prohibitions, they are ineffective and immediately lead to confrontation. It is important to try to make them responsible by setting the necessary boundaries but negotiating with questions that can facilitate the development of autonomy ». Let's take an example about studying: the phrase with which we could begin is "you have to make up for your insufficiency in mathematics: how do you plan to organize yourself in the next few days to be able to recover?". “The question is to help them take action independently, without expecting them to already know how to do it. They are not yet adults, they must be accompanied in this passage ».

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5 - Being organized parents

"In dealing with a conflicted adolescent, one must get out of the principle of immediacy: detach oneself from the idea that conflict has a recipe for use that is always valid and enter a logic of organization, sometimes of waiting".

What does this mean in practice? «Getting organized is doneking team play between parents, have a good educational cohesion between mom and dad, agree on the rule we are giving to our child and define a shared procedure. The conflict can reach bitter tones but if as parents we have a clear goal that guides us, if we can make a common front, here we can be effective. "What is my teenager's need? How old is she? And consequently, what are the experiences he needs to grow according to his age? "These are the questions that must guide our educational action".

6 - Find tolerance thresholds

“Once we have established the rules, we must also define a tolerance threshold that takes into account everyone's real needs. Let's take a practical example: the rearrangement of the room. Is seeing her perfect and immaculate an adult or adolescent need? Are we following an educational goal or does it serve to satisfy our obsession with order? We therefore establish basic organizational principles: the school backpack must be done independently every evening, the notebooks and school books must be put in order and not lost. And if the desk is a battlefield, we have to put our souls in peace, right now our son is fine as well, basically the disorder in which he lives reflects the revolution that is taking place in his brain. And let us remember that it will not be like this forever ».

7 - Do maintenance of your sore points

The parent in this stage of growth must train for conflict: «The adolescent needs to a resilient parent capable of staying in conflict: he wants to distance himself and break the strong and sometimes symbiotic bond typical of childhood. To do this, it must necessarily trigger a conflict with those who, symbolically but not only, represent childhood. He doesn't do it because he's angry with his parents, he does it to take his leave of a phase of growth that no longer interests him. Parents often struggle to accept this. Mothers and fathers of adolescent children are called to monitor their own emotional experiences and their own frailties by learning to distinguish what concerns their story from what concerns the story of their child ".

8 - Be careful when children are looking for conflict

An always obedient child is every parent's dream, but it may not be a real good. «A teenager who always favors mom and dad is as if he didn't want to grow up, if he always wanted to stay in childhood and still remain a child. As parents, one wonders if there is not an excessive protraction of care and if we are really facilitating the detachment from childhood by supporting his development or if, conversely, we still treat him as if he were a child, perhaps replacing him with the idea of ​​preserving him from frustration. In these cases we must ask ourselves: "Is this the man or woman I would like him to become? will he be able to be a citizen of the world with these characteristics? "".

9 - Understanding why we are doing it

Dealing with a conflicted teenager can be difficult, sometimes unnerving. Let us remember that our child is growing up: «The goal is to help him distance himself from our world while learning to take it into account, learning to respect the boundaries and limits that every relationship brings. In this way individuals who are competent in conflict management will grow up and able to reject violence as the ultimate solution to the frustration of being told no. The news pages, even recent ones, are full of stories related to the inability to be in relationships in a healthy and respectful way, for example of men and women who resort to violence because they do not tolerate abandonment or do not tolerate being contradicted. The parents' goal should be to raise adolescents capable of recognizing that conflict can be a real opportunity to discover something new and unprecedented about oneself but also about the other, about one's own emotional world and the des that animate it ", he concludes. Laura Petrini.

To deepen these issues, you can participate in the conference on 12 October in our city, entitled "Neither good nor bad". Why this title? "It is not a question of becoming better or more evil, more docile or aggressive but of learning to find the common interest - explains the pedagogist Daniele Novara, the founder of the CPP - we must help our children to fight well, to protect themselves from aggression in all its forms ". For readers there is a 30 euro discount. Discover the program and sign up

Updated on 18.01.2022

  • teens
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