There is some debate over whether or not you should allow your teenager to disagree with you. I’m of the mind that if the teenager doesn’t have a platform to voice his or her disagreements, you could isolate your teenager from you in a way that you would not like. As of this writing, I have two teenage boys in my house and a third right on the cusp. Along with maturity comes a questioning, a need to understand why the things in their lives are there and why they are relevant.
The teenage years are best spent preparing him or her for adulthood. To do this, they need understanding. They need to know the intricacies of life. And if you don’t teach them, they’ll learn it from their friends. Well, one of the best ways to help them understand life is to allow them a proper platform to disagree with you.
Done right, a teenager is not only taught about life, but he or she will feel that their opinions and voice have value. Keep in mind, that as a teenager gets older, they will instinctively try to become more independent of you. This is necessary for the day they leave your home, so they have a need to feel as if their opinions and voice matter. You need to give them a platform to exercise that independence. This doesn’t mean that you have to agree or disagree with your teenager’s opinion. But to always shut them down with a, “Because I told you to, that’s why!” or with a, “You’ll do it because I’m your mother!” isn’t going to give them understanding, and it’s not going to endear them to you either.
GIVING THE TEENAGER THE PROPER PLATFORM TO DISAGREE
To begin with, have a plan that both parents can agree upon and then explain it to the teenager. For example, you may want to tell your teenager that if they ever disagree with a decision you make that they are allowed to talk to you about it under certain conditions. If they violate the conditions, they won’t get a hearing. So if they want to be heard, they must stick to the conditions. You promise them that you will seriously consider their disagreement and hear them all the way through if they do it right.
Knowing the conditions under which he or she may disagree is important. They need to be aware that, not only are they able to disagree, but that their disagreement will be heard and considered. But they need to know that there is a right way and a wrong way to disagree.
WHAT THE TEEN CAN DO
Here are some suggestions as to the right conditions for your teenager to disagree.
- Respectfully. If a teenager is being disrespectful, then shut them down. Allowing disagreement under those conditions never works anyway.
- Privately. Don’t let them challenge you in public or in front of the rest of the family. Shut them down. Explain to them that is why you are shutting them down.
- Calmly. If he or she is yelling, cussing, or generally angry, then shut them down. Explain why you are shutting them down too. Nothing will ever be accomplished in anger.
- Listen. They must also listen to your reasons with the same respect you showed them. This is important. They need to understand why you did what you did. They need to understand, which means, mom and dad, you best have good reasons for your decision. One day your teenager will be the adult and in a similar position. If you are doing the right thing, then explain it to your teenager. But if they come to disagree, they must also listen to your reasoning.
- Acceptance. They must accept your final decision. If a teenager, even after disagreeing, is unwilling to accept the final decision they make it difficult to disagree the next time, they need to know that.
WHAT THE PARENT CAN DO
Here are some tips on considering your teenager’s disagreement. This is assuming that they have done it right, of course.
- Listen attentively. Give your full ear to their complaint and disagreement. Don’t interrupt. Let them say their whole piece.
- Ask gentle clarifying questions. Asking the right kind of questions will steer the teenager in the right direction. In my counseling of teenagers as a pastor, I often do this, and it is not long before they realize their disagreement was based on faulty logic or information. Seven times out of ten, teenagers will just change their minds and agree with the original decision anyway if this is done right.
- Ask them what they think should be done. This doesn’t mean that you have to agree or even do it. But it forces them to think through the problem from a proactive angle instead of merely reactive. Try to get them to answer the question from your perspective. Ask them to step into your shoes. When they answer, give them more clarity on your perspective that they may not have realized and then let them adjust their answer to the new information.
- Try to incorporate some of their thoughts and ideas into your decision. Many times you can slightly alter your decision to accommodate some idea of your teenager’s without compromising the integrity of your decision. This makes them feel that you not only listened to them, but feel that their thoughts and ideas are important too.
- Don’t be afraid to admit you made a mistake. If, after hearing your teenager out, you realize that you were wrong. Admit it. Thank them for their input and set it right. Your teenager will love your for it. They won’t think badly of you. In fact, they’ll think much more highly of you.
Giving your teenager a proper platform to disagree with you may very well be one of the best things you’ll ever do, not only to prepare them for adulthood, but also to win their hearts.
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