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3 Rules for Arguing With Teenagers Without Pushing Them Away

How to fight for—not against—your teenager.

We walk in silence now, awkwardness wedged between us. Instead of laughing, we battle. We plot to defeat each other. But there are no winners in our war of words, only scars that ache with loneliness.

You feel like a prisoner in our family. You want more freedom. I get it. I understand that you’re upset. But I can’t allow all the freedoms you want. I am your parent, not your friend.

You hate me. You say this with flaming, resentful eyes, and for a second—just a second—I don’t recognize you. Suddenly an old bridge washes away and we stand on separate shores, a raging bitterness between us.

I reach out to you now, to find a way back. As your parent, I have to make unpopular decisions. (I don’t expect you to understand this.) But maybe with kinder words, we can build a new bridge that we both can cross.

One day soon, your independence will arrive and you’ll spread your wings, wide and full, and break free. And I will cheer with delight as you lift off into the glowing sky.

Until then, let me put away angry words, cast aside my arrogance, and lead us in a better direction. I promise to try harder when we disagree. I will follow these simple rules:

1. No more judging

2. No more blaming

3. No more wanting to win

I pledge to listen more and talk less. I pledge to put my frustration aside and work to understand you. I pledge to be more sensitive and less reactive. I pledge to act out of respect instead of defensiveness.

This will take time. I will stumble and fall back into old habits. But I’ll keep trying—I won’t give up on us.

And in the future, when harsh moments fade, and silence echoes in the emptiness of your room like the strings of your unplayed guitar, I’ll take this letter out and, with an open heart, give thanks.

I will be thankful that we learned to fight for each other, instead of against each other. And that together we found the strength, on our journey as parent and child, to step away from stubbornness and lead with love.


Your Parent

Dedicated to the amazing therapists at Blue Ridge Wilderness who inspire children and parents every day.

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