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Resolving conflicts with your teenager

MOTHER
Even between parents and docile children, conflict is possible. You insist that he does his homework before he goes to his friend’s house; he tells you that he must go before he settles down to do anything at home; he has just come back from school, he has not eaten lunch.

And you knowing ‘better’ put your foot down that he does what you say, so that at the end, he leaves the living room quietly although you noticed that he is upset. Or, after the showdown, he goes to the room and takes his time in changing before he comes to the table some 30 minutes later. Sometimes, he sits on that table, shovels food absently into his mouth while he looks at you as if he has been wounded.

Worse, he stumps to his room with anger as the food sits on the table untouched for a long time, until you go there to do more scolding.

But the mother of all misunderstanding between mother and child is that he looks hard at you; eyes you more like before he bangs the door in a rush to be out of your sight because “you never understand.”

This would not be the first argument between you; it appears that all you do these days is quarrel-mother and child. He goes to his friend’s house before doing any of your bidding-still wearing uniform, food not eaten and homework untouched-as you sit there and look at him because he is ready to face the consequences of his disobedience.

Truthfully, your child is exercising his will, call it being confrontational, but arguing with a parent is not a behavior we approve of although it is common in homes even when a child has barely left the nappy stage.

Conflict can take place between a loving parent and a loving child when an inexperienced child demands to enforce his rights to make a choice. If truth would be admitted, it would be that a child knows little or nothing and could not be depended upon to take certain decisions for himself. But that is not saying that he would not try; a baby who spits out a medicine that is meant to help him because it does not taste good is protesting that he has a choice not to drink it. But a mother always finds ways to resolve the debacle by finding ways to force the medicine down his throat.

But the older children, the teenagers, may be able to state their demands verbally even when it sounds ridiculous and is not good for them.

But mother knows best. You know that it is best for a child who has just come back from school to eat, take a siesta where possible or rest for a bit.

It is also better to do his homework first, because play could keep him longer than he thought. However, it makes sense if the reason he is rushing there is connected with homework; but you are sure that homework has nothing to do with it so you put your foot down

However, you did not expect the anger and the hurt that followed your good intention. Normally in clashes of this nature, the aggrieved child always mellows after a while or appears to do so; the one that stumps to his room would come back when his rumbling stomach tells him that ‘mummy is right’ and he may want to rush through his meal because he knows that when he complies with one rule, he might be allowed to go and do his homework later.

But what about the one who draws her claws out to do battle? It would seem that mummy has gone too far in having her way all the time. We agree when some parents complain that some children are too stubborn; “He does not hear” “He wants to what he wants all the time.”

However, we say that parents can teach such children how to resolve issues or arguments by their own example. Ask them why they want to do it and listen to them as they explain without interrupting. Why does a child who has just come back from school-presumably, the said friend is in the same school and they had been together all day; what is so urgent? It could be a new game or pet that she finds so interesting.

You are right to help her put her priorities right. Instead of being accused of spoiling things, explain or remind her of the good result of that incident. Remind her of what happened when you intervened and stopped her doing what proved to be a wrong thing.

Explain thus: “It makes sense to change out of your uniform, eat and rest. You also have time to do your homework mentally if not manually.”

Use a level tone to tell her why going out would put her under pressure: “If you go, you will have to hurry back because you are hungry and thinking of homework-and you can’t play in your school uniform. So tell me why you have to go to Lisa’s house if you can’t stay and play awhile?”

She may be right some time too; if her friend has her exercise book, she would want to take it back urgently. She knows her friend better and is afraid that if time was wasted, something could happen to her book and earn her a punishment from school. She may not want to tell you why she is rushing there because you would scold her for being careless.

So when she insists on going, look at her to observe her body language; that would tell you that it is serious and you will have to give in.

But you will add your opinion, so ask when she will come back; let her know that Lisa’s house is only 20 minutes to and fro.

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