Parents with elementary and teen kids know that conflict is unavoidable (to be fair, disagreements happen with all kids, but the older ones have figured out how to push boundaries and will keep at it for what feels like forever). These kids regularly assert their independence, trying to get more time on their phones, later bedtimes, and more opportunities to steer clear of their moms and dads. If you are in the thick of it with your son or daughter, it can feel like you are always on opposite sides of the fence, which can be exhausting, especially when your kid throws the “all my friends are doing it” line at you.

Sometimes all you need to do to flip the script is find something you and your child can agree on. “You want to find something in what they’re doing or saying that is ‘validateable,’ explains parenting expert Dr. Lucie Hemmen. “Usually, there is a positive intention underlying most bad behavior. So if you can find that little nugget and validate it, you’re going to start softening the conflict and getting yourself on the same side as your teen.”


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♬ original sound – Dr.LucieHemmen

This situation could play out like this: Your teen wants to go to the concert with her friends but you aren’t comfortable with that and you’ve said no. Your teen is arguing that all the other parents are letting their kids go without adult supervision, but this is simply a non-negotiable for you. Dr. Hemmen suggests that you say something like, “I totally get why you would want to do everything your friends are doing. And I totally understand that you want more freedom. The good news is that I want to give you more freedom, just not in this situation. I’ve already made up my mind.” You are standing firm in your decision but you’re agreeing that your child should get more freedom (maybe you’re fine with regulated social media, letting them stay home alone for a while, or walking home from school on their own). You might follow this up with examples of other ways you’ve given them more freedom (say, browsing the aisles of Target while you shop and letting them Trick or Treat with a group of friends alone).

This is a great way to teach kids the skill of thoughtful arguing. “The reality about human interaction is that our teens need to learn how to argue,” Dr. Hemmen explained in a prior TikTok. “They need to learn how to get in people’s faces, hopefully skillfully, so that they don’t get walked on [and] so that they have a voice in their adult lives.”

Chances are, you aren’t going to get your teen to see your side of an argument. But if they come out of the interaction feeling like you understood their point of view, you are one step closer to a lower-conflict relationship.

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