Conflict Resolution that also Promotes Responsibility

Conflicts between teenagers are inevitable. The key is being able to resolve the conflict in a way that promotes discipline and responsibility. Here’s an example of what one parent wrote in:

I have two sons, ages 13 and 15. They fight all the time. It’s not just a punch here and a shove there; it escalates to a down-and-out brawl! My older son tells me that I favor the younger. I try to be fair, but my older son likes to “pick, pick, pick” at the younger one. My younger son has a quick-fire temper; he just can’t ignore the “picking.” He retaliates. When they each tell me how a fight started, they both have a different story. Whom do I believe? How can I stop the fighting, and how can I make them respect me again? The stress of these daily fights is affecting my health. It can’t be good for them either.

The response based on the Parenting Without Stress method: The next time a fight occurs, have each of them write down his version of how the fight started and also a solution to prevent it from occurring again. The guidelines are that each brother can only say what he himself will do or refrain from doing in the future. After you read their little assignment, have the brothers read each other’s paper out loud to each other—with no interruptions allowed. This will help each to understand the viewpoint and feelings of the other. The brothers are not “released” until they come to agreement on how to prevent a future incident. Then elicit from them a procedure or consequence if they do not live up to what they have decided.

Regarding respect for you, inform the boys that they diminish respect for themselves when they do not respect your desires. Then, absolutely do not tell them what to do or not do. Simply ask, “What would a responsible person do in this situation? What will you choose to do next time?”