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Resolving Conflict for Teenagers

by Kay Ireland, studioD

Whether in a feud with a friend, tussling with teachers or arguing with you as a parent, your teen might not yet have the chops to deal with conflict effectively. Screaming matches, the silent treatment and stubborn behavior are all par for the course, but they're unlikely to get anything done. If you want your teen to learn to fight fair, you need to teach her about conflict resolution. By helping her understand the right way to resolve an issue, she can be choosier with the battles she fights and how she fights them.

Take a Break

One of the most effective ways to lower the stakes for teen conflict is to teach your teen to take a break. Getting angry and yelling can sometimes seem satisfying, but it doesn't really help or get your teen what he wants out of the conversation. Instead, institute a "time out" rule. Before attempting to resolve a conflict, each party takes a break in his own corner and formulates a better conversation. After some cooling off time, everyone is less heated and more likely to listen to each other, rather than start a hotheaded fight.

Neutral Ground

Teens often use a mob mentality to fight their battles. Consider a group of girls getting together to start a yelling match with another girl that has offended just one in the group. Talk to your teen about fighting her own battles and choosing neutral ground for conflict resolution. If she has a problem with another teen at school, it should be a one-on-one conversation on neutral ground so both parties have their say. The same goes for conflict at home. Airing a grievance only with the offending party and on a neutral playing field can help you come to a better agreement without distractions or other people joining the conversation.

Listening Skills

The most important part of teen conflict resolution is acquiring listening skills. Without carefully listening to the other person's point of view -- sans interruptions -- an acceptable solution won't be reached. If your teen can't seem to make it through a conversation without interrupting, reach for a timer. Tell him that you'll be talking for two minutes, after which he'll have the same amount of time.

Talking it Out

Teach your teen to use "I" statements to take responsibility for his part in various conflicts. That helps him verbalize his feelings without causing an adverse reaction. Consider the difference between "You were a jerk and ditched me" and "I feel left out when I'm not included." The former sounds caustic and accusatory, while the latter helps the other party understand the emotions involved, which is much more effective.

Brainstorming Solutions

The final step to resolving conflict for teens is to brainstorm possible solutions. This is necessary whether the conflict is with friends, a teacher, siblings or you personally. The best way to brainstorm is to first, identify common goals both parties have and second, to ask the other party how she thinks the issue can be resolved. Working together to find a viable solution works more effectively than butting heads and each trying to get her own way.

About the Author

Kay Ireland specializes in health, fitness and lifestyle topics. She is a support worker in the neonatal intensive care and antepartum units of her local hospital and recently became a certified group fitness instructor.

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