We quarreled again. How to properly resolve conflicts with a teenager

May 22, 2019


Disobedience and selfishness, poor school performance, strange hobbies, and suspicious friends … Almost all parents whose children gradually grow up and start making their own choices face these problems. The teenage period is a difficult time for the whole family. It is important to go through conflicts with the child and mutual reproaches with the least losses, while maintaining respect and love for each other. So, let’s see why conflicts arise between teenagers and parents. How can you solve them correctly and can they be avoided?



  • Causes of conflicts between parents and teenagers
  • Behavior of teenagers in conflicts
  • The role of parents in conflicts
  • Can conflicts be completely avoided?
  • Constructive and non-constructive conflicts
  • Conflict of generations: how do you solve the problem of constant quarrels with a teenager?
  • What do you do when the relationship with the child is strained to the limit?

Causes of conflicts between parents and teenagers

Psychologists explain the difficulties of the teenage period by referring to the age crisis. This begins when the child is 10-12 years old and ends upon reaching 17-19. This is a transition period from one stage of children’s development to another. During the teenage years, changes occur in the structure of the child’s communication and the restructuring of his/her relationships with peers and adults. [1] It is the parents who feel the effects of this on themselves first. It may seem that yesterday their baby was sweet and sociable, but today he/she is avoiding everyone and nursing a grudge against the whole world.

Russian psychologists and teachers conducted a survey among teenagers and their parents in order to identify the main causes of family conflicts. The answers of children and adults almost coincided. Among the most common causes of conflict between parents and teenagers are the following:

• poor performance at school,

• discrepancy of views on life,

• child’s failure to do household duties.

• coming home late. [2]



Many conflicts between parents and teenagers usually arise “out of thin air”. But there are deep issues behind every quarrel, even minor disagreements.

Behavior of teenagers in conflicts

“I cannot take it anymore. My parents drive me crazy. They are too overprotective – checking whether I put on a hat, where I was, what I did. I’m a pretty good student, but my parents manage to make a problem even out of 2 “good” marks in a quarter. My mother constantly asks about my friends and boyfriend and we can start fighting over anything. This is really annoying. I have started lying, because it’s easier than constantly explaining to my parents where and in whose company I was. I began to stay longer at school with friends and with my boyfriend – just to avoid going home! I live in a cage like an animal. Mom asks why I don’t share anything with her. But why would I? After all, every conversation between us ends in a fight. I’m tired of living like that”.

– Anna, 15

On the surface the behavior of a teenager looks like denial and devaluation of the authority of adults. He/she can dye hair in a bright color, wear provocative clothes, return home only late at night and find a hobby that is not approved by relatives and teachers. Yet in reality, a teenager does not fight with his/her parents for the sake of fighting as such. All of it represents an attempt to break free from the tight control of the family and to set personal boundaries. Many of the actions of the child have this implication: “I can and want to make important decisions for myself. Please give me such an opportunity!” But these manifestations of the age crisis only antagonize parents, since they grew up during completely different times.

It may seem to adults that the rapidly growing child has become deeply indifferent to what is happening around, because he/she often behaves in an aloof manner, to put it mildly. But this is only a defensive reaction – the teenager simply does not know how to resolve the conflict with his/her parents. Therefore, he/she is doing the best to evade the clarification of relations in the hope that the situation will be resolved on its own. As a result, he/she becomes closed and taciturn and liable to tell lies.

Adolescent children, as a rule, respond to the accusations and confrontational actions of parents with the following reactions:

• tough opposition (demonstrative actions of a negative nature);

• complete refusal (disobedience of parents’ orders);

• isolation (silence, hiding the truth). [3]


Whatever the reasons for conflicts between parents and teenagers, they become a huge source of stress for the child. Tensions in the family can have serious consequences for the child – even depression. The child, although intensely striving for independence, has not yet learned to cope with life’s difficulties. He/she needs the help of parents.

The role of parents in conflicts

“My son is 12. Over the past year, my boy has changed a lot – he has become bitter, does not obey anything I say and is constantly acting up. He stopped going out with his friends in the evenings, instead spending more time at the computer, and not doing his homework. I tried to scold and punish him for such behavior, but he just gets “revenge” – he stops eating, and deliberately fails tests at school. His only friends are our cat and his computer. I restricted the time he was allowed in front of the TV, blocked the Internet on his smartphone and started meeting him from school. I hoped that he would stop being so bitter all the time. But it hasn’t got any better; the child is increasingly moving away from me and from his father. I don’t know what to do”.

– Anastasia, mother of 12-year-old Igor

Parents, for a young child, are the whole world. But everything changes as a child grows up. Children become more independent, express their opinions more and want to do things on their own. In the eyes of relatives all of this looks like a mutiny. They consider the changed behavior of the child as an attack against their own authority: “I am in charge now! What I say goes!” As a result, members of the family start to struggle for power. The teenager fights with parents aware of their lack of understanding.

Adults, accustomed to an authoritarian style of upbringing, are dissatisfied with many things connected with their growing teenager – the child’s studies and appearance, their choice of friends and hobbies. They are afraid of the deviant behavior of their beloved child, including deceit, aggression, Internet addiction and gaming. Conversely the teenager is afraid not to live up to the exaggerated expectations of his/her relatives. For the teenager this is a heavy burden.

The main mistake of parents when trying to communicate with a teenager is trying to maintain their tight control. Many adults, despite the fact that they already have sufficient experience in resolving conflicts, try to subordinate the child to their will. This merely pushes away and incenses the teenager, and what’s even worse, can “break” the growing child, making him/her into an indecisive adult unable to properly support him/herself.

Can conflicts be completely avoided?

Fighting between teenagers and parents strain family relations to the limit, and this can be emotionally draining for everyone.

It is impossible to completely avoid conflicts, because there will always be an age and culture difference between the child and his/her parents. Adults were brought up in completely different environments and already have well-established outlooks on life. A child is from a generation whose values may radically differ. A clash of interests is common and a normal manifestation of relations between people from different generations. The main consideration is what kind of outcome it will lead to.

It is pointless to deal with manifestations of independence from a teenager without finding out the true reasons for the behavior. These reasons will help to understand how to resolve arising conflicts. The crucial thing is to explain to the child how important it is to maintain close, trusting relationships within the family.


If conflicts have become habitual, you can jointly go through a behavior modification program using the 7Spsy technique. Having mastered a healthy behavior scenario, it will be easier for you to find a compromise.

Constructive and non-constructive conflicts

Continuous conflicts between teenagers and parents risk the destruction of relations and protracted crises. But according to psychologists, a powerful constructive origin can potentially be found in the emerging disagreements. It turns out that a conflict can be useful if it leads to a “right” outcome.

Depending on the outcome, conflicts can be divided into 2 groups – constructive and non-constructive.

1. Constructive conflict

This is when a quarrel flows into a calm dialogue and ends with a compromise. In this case, both the child and parents are ready to cooperate. They do not hold back their claims and do not hold resentments against each other.

The positive effects of constructive conflict include:

• the release of tension between parents and the child,

• the opportunity to get to know each other better,

• an incentive for personal change and development. [3]

It is this outcome that children and parents should strive towards – not to aggravate the problem, but to constructively solve it. But it is important that each party aims for a positive result.

2. Non-constructive conflict

Non-constructive conflicts between parents and teenagers are devastating. When neither party has an acceptable way to solve the problems that arise, mutual accusations, rather than a compromise, come to the fore. This becomes conflict for the sake of conflict. It is emotional and sometimes aggressive. It is precisely because of such fervent quarrels that a teenager becomes withdrawn, often lies, “learns” bad habits, and finds dangerous hobbies.

The negative effects of non-constructive conflict include:

• complete emotional exhaustion of adults and the child,

• deterioration of the psychological climate in the family,

• complete reluctance to maintain contact with each other. [3]

When the conflict takes on a protracted nature, it is not easy to shift it from a destructive base to a constructive one.


According to the questionnaire, 38% of teenagers aged 12-13 surveyed in conflict situations with parents solved problems in non-constructive ways (aggression, isolation, avoidance behavior). This indicator rose to 44% in teenagers aged 14-15. [2]

Conflict of generations: how do you solve the problem of constant quarrels with a teenager?

Conflicts that arise between adults and children are exacerbated when both parties believe that they are behaving completely normally. Parents are sure that they care about the health and well-being of their child. Conversely the teenager is in conflict with parents, because he/she is convinced that he/she was not going to do anything wrong and reprehensible, but he/she has not been heard and understood. It is a vicious circle.

The relationship struggles between parents and children should not turn into a war. According to psychologists, the optimal family model at the time of the age crisis is partnership. Hypercare, dictatorship and coexistence are inappropriate models of family relationships.

How do parents and teenagers avoid conflict? It is important for adults to follow these principles:

1. Do not limit the independence of the child and support all his/her undertakings.

2. Leave the child the right to choose his/her friends and style.

3. Become an accomplice in all the experiences of the child, trying to help them, and do not teach them “how to live”.

4. Do not blame the child for failure, but try to overcome difficulties together.

5. Give the child the right to speak at family councils when making important decisions.

6. Be tolerant of those character traits of the child, that may cause acute rejection.

7. Do not try to solve a problem when in too emotional a state, and reduce any conflicts of interest to constructive dialogues.

8. Avoid labeling in quarrels (“you always …”, “you never …”).

9. Respect the personal space of the child (do not enter their room without knocking, do not eavesdrop on telephone conversations, do not touch personal things). [1]


Psychologists advise parents to gradually reduce care by giving the child control over increasingly larger areas of his/her life. The child needs to learn from his/her own experiences and mistakes. This difficult period will pass relatively painlessly if there is mutual respect and love in the family.

What do you do when the relationship with the child is strained to the limit?

Conflicts between parents and teenagers are subject to the same laws as adult conflicts. The only difference is that rapidly growing children are more emotional, which means that even a petty quarrel can end in a real fight. A loud showdown is not an option. Both parents and the child should start by changing their behavior model and by getting rid of the habit of responding to provocative situations with shouts and reproaches. It is important to react in time so as not to miss the moment when it is still possible to establish constructive relations with each other. If parents and teenagers themselves cannot find ways to resolve conflicts, psychology will help.

The 7Spsy behavior modification technique is focused on the formation of new positive attitudes that will help transfer conflicts towards a peaceful direction. This is a patented, scientifically proven method based on the theories of I.P. Pavlov, B.F. Skinner and A.A. Ukhtomsky. The program is designed for 2-6 weeks and the teenager is engaged independently at a convenient time. Having mastered the skills of self-control at the end of the course, a teenager will understand how to stop quarreling with parents. This will help him/her to resolve conflicts with parents without aggression, while maintaining an emotional connection with the family.

The advantage of the 7Spsy program is the ability to work remotely with a psychologist. The child is guaranteed complete confidentiality. This is important because often teenagers are unwilling to share the details of their problems with teachers and close adult relatives, fearing their negative reaction. In addition, the child can receive comprehensive psychological assistance – by phone and e-mail, in online chat.



Information from this website cannot be used for self-therapy and self-diagnostics. 

Institute of Distance Psychology Pte .Ltd UEN 201834385M 4 Battery Road, #25-01 Bank of Chaina Building Singapore 049908.

LLC Tekhnologii Ideala, Center for Research Psychology 

TIN 5406976032 / PSRN 1175476058801

+7 (800) 550-99-36

+7 (658) -671-95-25