by Mark Gregston
If you spend any amount of time around people in your day to day life, you’ll quickly see that it doesn’t take long for arguments to arise. And, it’s no better online, either. From Twitter to Facebook, arguments abound. And it doesn’t seem isolated to just politics, fashion, or sporting teams. It appears that no matter the subject, some people love to argue.
But why is that? Is it a new phenomenon that’s related to our technologically-advanced culture? Or is there something else rooted deeper in us that’s causing this need to express our unwavering thoughts and opinions?
Well, the answer is both. People were made to connect. But arguments arise because we live in a world where people can express themselves and their thoughts and opinions, 24/7, and they’re encouraged to do so. We have more tools at our disposal for sharing our opinions, yet no one is really listening to each other. And unfortunately, our culture thrives on disagreements. But there is a solution, and it’s up to us as parents to show our kids that there’s another way to communicate and connect. Whether it’s with people they know personally, or those they meet online, we need to teach our kids that they can engage and express themselves differently—because being different is a good thing and it’s what makes all us uniquely special.
#1 Not Every Argument Needs to Be A Battle
When was the last time you had an argument with someone? For some, it’s been a long time, but for others, you probably don’t have to think too far back. Arguing is a form of communication, but focusing our opinions on others without listening in return is self-centered.
Arguments are often caused by a clash of values or differing opinions, but they can also be an opportunity for you to engage with your teen in a healthy manner. Most times it’s better to listen to understand where your teen or child is coming from, instead of listening to respond to them. God calls us to peace, and the Bible reminds us that we shouldn’t … have anything to do with foolish arguments, because they produce quarrels. Now, this doesn’t mean you just ignore the situation. But it does mean that you need to spend some time engaging your teen to find out why they’re conflicted. Sometimes they’re trying to express themselves the best way they know how, while other times, they’re feeling tired of not being heard. Maybe they’ve been stifled at school. Or maybe they’re just trying to learn how the navigate the world around them—and they want to play the devil’s advocate.
Conflict is the precursor to change. It’s a natural and healthy step in the progression toward adulthood, so don’t avoid conflict, but find ways to actively engage and participate in the solution. If nothing else, allowing your child the opportunity to talk provides them the opportunity to express their thoughts and feeling in a safe place where someone they can trust is listening and paying attention.
#2 Relationships—Not Regulations Change People
By the time your kids are teens, they know what’s right and wrong. They know what Scripture says, and they know what you say and what you believe. So, Mom and Dad, your role at this time in their life is not to be a teacher, but a trainer. It’s the time to listen, time to ask questions, and time to discuss your teens’ experiences, not your own.
And, grandparents, you’re in a unique position, too. Grandparents are a wealth of information—as they’ve been around the block a time or two, so this is your time to share with your teen. Grandparents aren’t mom and dad, and so a lot of times, teens feel they can talk to grandparents in a way they can’t talk to their parents. And oftentimes, teens will look to their grandparents for help and advice because of their observations, reflections, and experiences.
Just remember, relationships take time to build, so if your teen has a special relationship with another family member, be thankful—and grateful.
#3 How Well Do You Argue?
Have you ever found yourself in a situation where you won the battle, but you lost the war? Well, believe me, that’s not the place you want to find yourself in with your teen. When someone wants to fight with words, there will be no winners. So, before the next battle even starts think about how you want to handle the escalation. And when you find yourself in that next battle—ask yourself—does what I’m about to say hurt or help? What are my words going to do to that other person? Will they heal or harm? And more importantly, think about why you argue. You don’t have to compromise your values and convictions, but you should make sure that when you speak, you do so with compassion and truth.
Moms and Dads … arguments are inevitable. They happen because we all think differently and everyone feels things in their own way. But arguments are not the end of a relationship—either with your spouse or with your kids. Arguments have an amazing way of showing us what our teens need and it exposes their desire. It is your opportunity to discover whether they’re just being selfish or whether there’s really a true need in their life. So, it’s okay to disagree. The challenge is to disagree and maintain the boundaries and rules that you’ve established for your home. And keep the relationship you have with your teen! Don’t let an argument ruin a relationship that God has placed in your life!