Sarah was so excited when she told her parents she had been accepted into a local theater company, she couldn’t wait to get started on the first play.

But when her father, John, found out 15-year-old Sarah would need to spend the night in other cities during multi-night performances, he laid down the law. Knowing some of the organizers of the theater company had a reputation for using drugs, John wanted to protect his daughter. So he refused to let Sarah go on out of town performances, thus ending her association with the theater company.

John figured his daughter would soon get over her upset. But she didn’t. He wasn’t prepared for the long term anger directed at him and the rift it caused in their relationship. Why couldn’t she understand that he just wanted to make sure his beloved daughter was safe?

The teen years can be a traumatic time for both parents and teenagers. Kids are growing up and it is their job to begin asserting their independence, often striking terror into the heart of Mom and Dad. Wanting to protect their kids, parents try to impose strong controls, which can cause deep breaks in their relationship.

What’s a Parent To Do?

Instead of creating conflict by forcing your teen to do your bidding, find a solution you both can agree on. Does that sound impossible?

It turns out:

The effective way to eliminate conflict is to listen fully, without judging or interrupting, to what your teen says, then reflect back the facts and the feelings you heard.
When people feel they have been treated fairly, even though the decision may not be their favorite, they are often quite willing to go along with it. (Much evidence to the contrary – teens are people too!)

To Keep Peace and Promote Positive Action

By following the steps to “Systematic Problem Solving, you do both; listen fully and give your child a fair hearing. The good news is, you get a fair hearing too!

Systematic problem solving simply means, instead of jumping to solutions, you sit down together (having paper and pen is useful) and go through the following steps.

Define the Real Problem: This takes asking questions, listening fully and carefully to the answer. Then reflecting back what you heard to make sure you are on the right track. After you listen, you express your concern. Together decide on the problem and write it down.
Brainstorm at least five possible solutions: The tricky part is to maintain your cool, accept all ideas (even those ridiculous annoying ones teens usually say at first – they’ll come up with good ones soon), and ban criticism.
Evaluate each solution by asking the following questions together: a. Is it safe? b. How will people react? c. Will it solve the problem? d. Could you go along with it? (even if it’s not your favorite) e. Is it possible to do? Cross out the solutions that are unworkable, and circle the ones that could solve the problem.
Choose a solution and try it out. It’s best to let your teen choose the solution (with your input) because they are way more likely to take action on something they have created themselves.
Review results. This may be the most forgotten step, but it can also be the most important. It is where you have the opportunity to show you are a caring, reasonable person and cement your relationship. If the solution hasn’t worked, go through the steps again, listening carefully to what happened. If it has worked, celebrate – through a positive acknowledgement and congratulations.

Also, did you know that one type of praise can produce self-defeating behavior and anxiety, while another can move your kids to positive action? Changing a few words can make a night and day difference in your child’s life.

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