Blake has worked in mental health since 2002. He educates others on their paths toward resilience and recovery.
Why Do Parents and Teens Get Into Conflicts?
Conflict happens when two people disagree based on their own goals, values, or beliefs. It's not always as simple as an argument. Rather, conflict is what happens right before the argument; it's what the participants disagree about before they start calling each other names.
Parents and teenagers inherently have many opportunities to experience conflict with one another. Adolescence is a time when independence and parental influence clash, since teens are able to think on their own but still live with parents who have rules and expectations for them. Teenagers don't necessarily hold the same beliefs and values as their parents, and their goal to have fun conflicts with their parents’ goal to keep them safe.
List of Common Conflict Sources
Here’s a list of common sources of conflict between parents and their teenage children.
taking care of a pet
cell phone use
how to spend money
type of music
using electricity/hot water
what to eat
getting out of bed
sex/displays of affection
who to hang out with
11 Hot Topics for Heated Arguments
Although disagreements over all of the topics mentioned above can lead to household strife, the following 11 topics in particular tend to provoke a lot of arguments between parents and teens.
Curfew is a classic topic for parents and teenagers to argue about. It doesn't really matter what time the curfew is; when kids don't show up at home when they're supposed to, their parents get worried. A worried parent becomes a scolding parent. When the teen does come home, they get an earful and a stiff punishment.
2. Cell Phone Use
Historically speaking, cell phones are a new technology, so this is a fairly new source of conflict. It ties into the other sources of conflict, like how to spend money and what kinds of displays of affection are appropriate. Usually, the disagreement happens when the teenager uses their cell phone excessively, either by racking up a very high phone bill or while communicating with a significant other. Sometimes, the phone is used in an inappropriate way, such as sexting.
It doesn't matter whether it's a party, an electric guitar, or the TV—parents don't seem to have the same tolerance for noise as teenagers. Sometimes, teens want to have noisy fun while their parents want to sleep. This is a common conflict that occurs every day. Conflicts over type of music could fall under this category, too, because if parents don't like the music the kids are listening to, then they are more likely to tell them to turn it down.
There are 1,000 reasons why a parent might not like your boyfriend or girlfriend when you're a teenager. There are also 1,000 reasons to justify that the parent is being unfair. Either way, parents probably see their kids as being too young to make a good decision—if they are even old enough to date at all.
It's easy for parents to influence their young children into going to church and practicing religion. However, as a child matures, they start thinking in more complex and abstract ways. They start to be influenced by peers, teachers, coaches, and the media. Teenage beliefs may clash with parental beliefs about whether there is a God, who God is, or whether church is important.
If there’s one easy, standardized way for parents to gauge maturity and discipline, it’s by looking at a teenager’s grades. Although this may not be totally true, parents might still use this data to judge a teenager every time their grades are reported. Some parents have a problem with F’s, while others don't even want to see C's. Regardless, the conflict happens when the parents’ expectations aren’t met.
No one likes to work for free, but occasionally teenagers see doing chores as working for free. Their parents are likely providing something tangible as payment that the teenager may not be acknowledging. For example, the parents may be providing food, clothing, shelter, use of a vehicle, etc. But when you are young and self-centered, that’s not enough payment for taking out the trash and cleaning your room. Allowances may not meet the adolescent’s expectations, just like grades may not meet parental expectations.
8. Personal Appearance
Tattoos, piercings, crazy hairdos, heavy make-up, or short skirts are easy ways to pick a fight with parents who value traditional looks. It’s a bit ironic that many teens want to express their individuality by getting a piercing or a tattoo, since there are millions of other teens expressing their individuality in the same way.
9. Smoking, Drinking, and Drug Use
No parents say that they want their kid to abuse drugs. When parents find out that their teen is struggling with substance abuse, it goes against their vision of a bright future for their child. By the time the parents find out, it has probably become a problem in some way already. Adults struggle with substance abuse, too, so this argument may also take the form of a teen confronting a parent.
Honesty is already a hot issue for some people. When parents are totally responsible for their teenager, and they realize the teen is lying to their faces, they'll likely feel angry. Lies are usually used to cover up something else, such as theft, sneaking out, or hiding a tattoo. As a teenager, when you break your parents' trust, it can take some time to get out of the hole you dug for yourself.
11. Using Electricity/Hot Water
Using the electricity or water is another easy source of conflict when you have the parents paying for something that the teen seems to use frivolously. Does any of this sound familiar: "Turn off the lights. Close the door! Were you born in a barn?"
How Do You Resolve Parent-Teen Conflict?
Identifying the source of conflict is the first step to resolving the conflict. Here are a few tips for parents and teenagers to use:
- Focus on common goals: View each other as allies in the common goals you agree on, which usually include keeping the teen safe and seeing them be successful. Refocus your energy on these goals to keep from getting too adversarial.
- Speak thoughtfully: Use "I statements" to express feelings and make requests. Just say "I feel _____, when I _____." Make simple and specific requests. This is much better than blaming and name-calling, which normally happens when emotions run high.
- Brainstorm solutions: List possible solutions to the conflict together. This may seem obvious, but many times a conflict will polarize viewpoints until no compromise or negotiation seems possible. Just start listing creative ideas, whether they seem reasonable or not. Creativity is your friend when solving any problem in life, including conflicts with others.
- Make a decision together: It's still a conflict if parents tell their teen that they have to do something "because I said so." It's also still a conflict if the teen just gives in to a threat and the relationship gets damaged. Decide on a solution together when both parties are calm enough to make rational decisions. Don't try this when anyone is angry, though.
What Do You Argue About?
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.
logan on February 05, 2020:
holy clean your washer
someone annoyed on June 03, 2019:
please right about teenage conflict only not teeanage and parents and family!
booshka on February 06, 2019:
teenagers may seem evil at times, but parents aren't always right, you know
Franklin on November 17, 2018:
I salute your organized work of causes and solutions to tackle them
Ouba on August 15, 2017:
Parents are really think they know it all...if they bad things in the past they should not make that our problem
SharonBallantine on November 13, 2014:
No two people will agree on every topic all the time. Learning to get along with others includes learning to accept that we have differences of opinions--and even so, we can still respect and even like each other.
This is true within our own families as well. When we teach our children at an early age to look inside themselves and discover what makes them unique, we must also accept that there may be things about them that we would not have chosen for them if it were up to us.
Focus on the feelings behind the disagreements and learn to really listen to what is being said, and the emotions behind the words. And be willing to work with your kids to come up with alternative solutions in the face of disagreements. The best solution for the family is usually one you collectively choose. It might not have been your first choice, or even something you would have thought of on your own!
Russell Pittock from Nakon Sawan Province, Thailand. on September 11, 2014:
My wife and I were young parents and we thought that, for this reason, we would be more in touch with our children. Nothing could have been further from the truth. The areas of conflict that you have identified ring very true.
ghea on October 10, 2012:
usually the teenager now wanted to live young wild and free...
they do what they want... they don't care what other people say about. and they don't care who sees about it..
all they want to do is to have more fun in their life....
JP Carlos from Quezon CIty, Phlippines on March 07, 2012:
Teenage is truly a difficult time for both parents and the child. On one side is a child learning about himself, friends, society, norms rules etc., on the other end is a parent trying to protect the child. The balance is quite difficult. I'm a new dad and I'm already worried about these things. I guess, it's something all parents will eventually have to handle.
Aunt Mollie on January 12, 2012:
Excellent information for raising teenagers. A little turbulence during these years is perfectly normal. Voted up!
Nancy Owens from USA on January 01, 2012:
I like that you talked about seeing one another as allies in the area in which you agree. Knowing that both parties can agree on at least some things sort of helps to take the sting out of the part where you have to receive criticism. Voted up and useful!
Stephanie Das from Miami, US on January 01, 2012:
This is a cool article. When I was a teen, I fought with my parents about my party habits and slacking off at school. I was a bit rebellious, but luckily for me I was the youngest child, so I got to slide under the radar.
Denise Handlon from North Carolina on December 31, 2011:
Well written article with lots of important and interesting information.
Helen Murphy Howell from Fife, Scotland on December 31, 2011:
The pointers for helping to resolve conflict issues are excellent. Not many articles on this topic have these and only highlight the conflict areas. Great hub + voted up!
Aurelio Locsin from Orange County, CA on December 30, 2011:
I like how you not only point out the sources of conflict but offer some resolution strategies. Voting this Up and Useful.