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My teen is always coming up with foolish ideas, and we end up arguing endlessly. Any thoughts on how to break the cycle?

Teens naturally explore their areas of interests as they stretch into their adult identity. Your teen’s ability to debate shows a growing ownership of self. Their ability to know and articulate their desires are actually good things, though communication patterns may need some fine tuning.

Be clear about the ground rules for disagreement in your home. Hold each other to the standard of treating one another with respect. Debate ideas, not people or character flaws. Teach your kids to use “I” statements, such as “I think (or feel) …” rather than using “You” statements, which are easily tainted with accusation. Avoid generalizations like “You always …” or “You never …”, which are rarely true and create further division.

Arguing can be difficult to navigate if the tone becomes disrespectful, but having a difference of opinion is not a bad thing. You are different people, and you can have differing perspectives. 

Sometimes you just need to help them think their idea fully through. To avoid being put into a defensive posture, hand them the burden of proof. Say, “Tell me why I should say yes.” This communicates that you are open to exploring ideas when thought thoroughly through. Let them articulate how their idea aligns with your family’s faith and values. Have them clarify their plan for safety and supervision, how they will manage the costs, and how this choice brings honor to God and blesses others.

Don’t start with no, but consider their ideas. Perhaps the idea could become better with the right supports in place. Maybe their idea is not bad; maybe it’s just not a choice you would make. Don’t be pressured into immediate reactions. Their bad planning does not make it an emergency. Taking time and being thoughtful can take the negative energy out of the disagreement. Perhaps with a chance to pray on it, you will discover that this opportunity could help them to learn and grow.

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