This post: Never Say Never: Why Your Teen Needs You to Compromise
Before I had kids, I had a vision of the type of mom I would be. After witnessing more than a few toddler temper tantrums in the check-out line at the grocery store because they couldn’t have a candy bar or a new toy, I was convinced that no kid of mine would ever pull a stunt like that.
I was sure I wouldn’t be that mom…
It’s funny how parenting has a way of slapping you across the face and making you realize just how stupid and arrogant you were pre-kids.
And, when my kids hit the teen years, I never imagined that they’d talk back to me, roll their eyes when I asked them to do something benign like take out the trash or feed the cat, or that I’d cave as often as I did when it came to screen time, eating junk food or letting them off the hook with chores.
The truth is, I beat myself up for years for falling short on every “My child will never,” “I’ll always,” and “That won’t happen in my house.”
But somewhere along the way, I realized that my expectations (both of myself and my kids) were not only unrealistic but that I spent so much of my time trying to hold myself and my kids accountable to my lofty parenting beliefs that I was losing sight of the big picture… to put my relationship with my kids first and allow them the freedom to become more independent.
Caving in occasionally, working with my kids to find a solution that we could both agree on, and realizing my own limitations and those of my children didn’t mean I was failing as a parent. What it meant was that I’d learned the art of compromise and being flexible – a critical component of raising happy, independent, empathetic kids.
Parents walk a fine line between discipline and grace. It’s the ultimate challenge to be both firm and fluid, strong and soft, yielding, yet rock solid. (~ Kristen Armstrong)
Never Say Never: Why Your Teen Needs You to Compromise
The Benefit of Compromise with Teenagers
Tossing out sayings like “Because I said so,” or “My house, my rules,” might serve you well when your kids are young, but according to parenting experts, once your kids hit the teen years, you’re likely setting them up to rebel.
According to the Center for Parent & Teen Communication, “Ideally, we need to have two-way communication with our teens. Give and take.” Parents who care more about monitoring their kids closely by setting steadfast rules with little room for negotiation, stand to lose authority as a result of their inflexibility.
The fact is, the ability to compromise and negotiate is one of the most powerful life skills we need to foster in our kids – a skill they need to learn from us.
When we compromise and negotiate with our teens, it helps them learn to:
- Think logically about what they need and want
- Communicate in a calm and respectful manner
- Understand other perspectives
- Verbalize their viewpoint and make a case for compromise
- Self-control to make their case in a calm, methodical, non-emotional way
- Have empathy for others
- Make better decisions
Compromising with Your Teen: 7 Things to Keep in Mind
#1 Let Them Challenge the Rules
This might sound counterproductive when it comes to clinging to our parental authority, but hear me out…
When our kids become teenagers, they’ll try to break the rules they don’t like anyway – with or without our approval. Rather than having our kids break the rules behind our back, it’s better to allow them to weigh in on the conversation and have a say in the rules we set.
When my kids entered middle school, I allowed many (not all) of my house rules to be challenged by my kids. I felt my rules were fair and therefore, I never had an issue discussing them. My motto was, “Convince me.” If my kids offered sound reasoning why a rule should be modified, I typically modified it (and held them accountable to it) which empowered them and strengthened our relationship.
#2 It’s the Rule Being Challenged, Not Your Authority
“Mooom, stop bugging me to clean my room! I’ll do it eventually, just not now!” When my daughter and I found ourselves arguing (far too often) about her disastrous bedroom, she and I finally came up with a compromise. Rather than expecting her to keep it clean day-in-and-day-out (which, looking back, seemed unreasonable, especially considering how busy her life was with school, sports, and her job), we decided she would give it a thorough cleaning once a month. No more nagging, no more arguing. Our compromise worked like a charm.
“I’m getting older, mom,” said my son. “In a couple of years I’ll be in college and you won’t be there to keep tabs on me. Let me have a later curfew, I promise I’ll text you and let you know where I am and that I’m safe.” He was right… he made a sound argument and I needed to loosen my grip.
When our kids challenge our rules, they’re not necessarily challenging our authority. Empower them with a voice. Give them a chance to state their case. Your teen needs you to compromise and loosen your grip.
#3 Create an “It’s Healthy to Argue” Mindset
I recently read somewhere that “Conflict is often a precursor to change and, oftentimes, that change is necessary.”
This really resonated with me mainly because as a mom, when my kids and I argued about anything, I viewed it as a negative – that they were pushing back on my authority and “testing” me, or that I was weak, or worse, a total pushover if I loosened my parental grip in the least.
Sure, to some degree it’s true. They were testing me. But I later realized that my job wasn’t to stop my kids from arguing with me, my job was to teach my kids how to argue with me, productively.
Rather than shutting your kids down, “Stop arguing with me! My decision is final!” allow them to create a case for change. Does your 14-year-old daughter want to go to a concert with her friends? Let her formulate a solid argument (and plan) that sounds safe and reasonable enough for you to say yes. Maybe an adult drives them and sits two rows back or an older sibling accompanies them.
Let your teen create a case and identify what compromises he/she is willing to make to change your mind. If it’s a reasonable case, then it’s not caving in. It’s giving your teen a voice and the freedom to become more independent while teaching them valuable negotiation skills.
#4 Compromise: Making Concessions on Both Sides
As much as our kids would love to believe that compromise means getting what they want, it has far more to do with making mutual concessions and, in some cases, lowering expectations just a bit to reach a solution that both parties can agree on and live with.
My 13-year-old son wanted to Uber to the football game downtown and my husband and I weren’t comfortable with that. So, my husband agreed to drive my son and his friends and hang out at the game (giving them space, of course.) Naturally, my son would have preferred having the freedom to get to the game with friends “his way,” but he was willing to give in to give us peace of mind. It was a win-win for us both.
We can’t view compromising or seeking a win-win solution with our kids as a sign of parental weakness. In fact, it’s a sign of parental strength.
#5 You’re Teaching Your Teen a Life Skill
Soon enough your teen will be an adult living in the real world with a real job, a real boss, and real consequences that aren’t very forgiving. They need to learn the art of communicating their needs and wants now, how and when to compromise and how to state their case in a mature, calm, concise manner. They also need to learn to view the perspectives of others with compassion and empathy.
So, the next time your teen challenges a rule or tries to convince you to sway in your parenting beliefs, give them the floor. Sit back quietly and listen and allow them to convince you. If their argument is strong, be willing to change. Unbeknownst to your teen, you’re teaching them a skill they will carry with them through life.
#6 Learn How to “Agree to Disagree”
There will be times, regardless of how sound your teen’s argument is, that you simply can’t or aren’t willing to compromise or negotiate. Talk to your teen about compromise.
Let them know that while you welcome giving them the floor to voice their views and opinions, you may not always agree with them and you may not always be willing to compromise. It might just boil down to your parenting instinct or another (intangible) reason that might be difficult for your teen to understand.
In this case, you and your teen need to learn to “agree to disagree.” Bottom line, no matter how adept your child becomes at negotiation or compromise, sometimes, your authority will rule.
#7 Some Things Should Never Be Up for Negotiation
Compromising with our kids doesn’t mean that everything is up for negotiation, and it certainly doesn’t mean we’ll surrender something of value simply to “keep the peace” with our kids.
Sure, we might cave occasionally on their curfew or let our kids off the hook on a few chores because they’re exhausted from pulling an all-nighter studying, but our family belief system – our morals, values, and principles should never be compromised.
Things like being respectful and honest, showing decency and compassion toward others, virtually anything that’s just plain wrong or having to do with our kids’ safety or the safety of others should never be challenged or bargained for.
Do your teen and yourself a favor by welcoming compromise and negotiation in your relationship.
After all, compromise is what makes friendships, families, and society healthy and strong. With a shift in mindset (and perhaps a little work), the art of compromise and negotiation will make your relationship with your teen healthy, strong, and respectful.