Communication and Conflict Resolution with Teens

Why Do Teens Struggle With Conflict?

Understanding the Teenage Brain and Communication

  • The Teenage Brain is not fully developed until the age of 25
  • The Prefrontal Cortex (front of the brain) that is responsible for planning, decision-making, reasoning, judgement, insight is not fully developed in a teenager
  • The Emotional Region (Amygdala) of the Brain is developed in the teenager
  • In the adult brain, the Prefrontal Cortex and the Emotional Region (Amygdala) work together.
  • In the teenage brain, these two areas do not work together.
  • This is why Teenagers respond emotionally, with an impulsive reaction in communication (noticing someone’s voice inflection, facial expression) where as an adult responds logically to the information expressed in communication.
  • Because teenagers are responding impulsively to the emotions in communication, they misperceive or misunderstand emotions expressed by the other person.

How to Communicate More Effectively with a Teenager

Mutual Respect Motto for Your Home:

  1. I am Valuable.
  2. You are Valuable.
  3. My opinion matters and I need to say it.
  4. Your opinion matters and I need to listen to it.

Engage in Conversation

  1. Let them talk
  2. Respond vs. React
  3. When they open up to you about a situation instead of telling your opinion, Ask for their opinion ("What did you think about that?")
  4. Dinner Talks (Make it purposeful) ("What was the best part about your day? What was the most challenging part about your day?")
  5. Focused Time on Just One( Find time to focus on just your teen doing something that they love to do)

Resolving Conflict With Your TEEN 101

STEP 1: Understand YOUR personality

  • Understanding your Personality helps you to better understand yourself    
  • Understanding your Personality helps you to better understand why you respond to certain situations the way that you do.

STEP 2: Understand Your TEEN’s personality

  • Understanding the Personality of others helps you to better understand them
  • Understanding the Personality of others helps you to understand why they respond to certain situations the way that they do.

STEP 3: Understand why Your Personalities Conflict

  • When personalities are different, it can cause conflict.
  • When personalities are the same, it can cause conflict.
  • Recognizing conflicting personalities can help you to respond instead of react.

STEP 4: Engage in Healthy Communication

When people are faced with a conflict situation, they respond in different ways
        1. Aggressive (Unhealthy)
            *Using inappropriate Language
        **When Emotions Rise, Logical Reasoning Falls
        2. Passive (Unhealthy)
            *Ignoring the situation and/or the person
            *Avoid, isolate
            *Short answers
            *Rolling of the eyes, sighing loudly
        **When Emotions are Hidden, It produces an active volcano (bubbling up inside until an explosion when you least expect it)
        3. Assertive (Healthy)
            *Confronting the conflict in a healthy way
                1. Talking
                2. Speaking the Truth
                3. Staying Calm
                4. Respond vs. React
                5. Practice DESC

Respond Vs. React

One way to show teens how to respect others is to model how to respond instead of how to react in conflict situations.

Example:  Julie is angry that her parents took away her cell phone for the weekend. She reacts by yelling, slamming her door, and screaming the famous line, “I hate you!” at them.

Reaction:  Parent reacts by yelling, “Watch your tone!” and “Don’t you make me come in there and give you something to be upset about!” and “If you slam that door one more time, I’m going to take it off the hinges and then a cell phone will be the least of your worries!”


  1. Breathe.
  2. Remind yourself that you are the adult and they are the child.
  3. Give them some time (i.e. 5 minutes) to calm down.
  4. Knock on the door before entering.
  5. Respond to the emotion/situation and not the reaction to you: “I know that you are angry at our decision right now, but I need you to respect me as we talk.”
  6. Ask for clarification with choices: “Are you angry because you had your cell phone taken away for the weekend or because you can’t text your friends/check Instagram this weekend?” (They will probably say both).
  7. Ask for more clarification: “What else are you angry about?”
  8. Allow the conversation as long as respect is being shown. (If at any time during the conversation, disrespect consistently occurs, stop the conversation and say, “We need to stop this conversation until you are able to respond to me respectfully. I will come back in ____ minutes.”)
  9.  Hold to the punishment, but give input for future situations: “In the future, if you respect our rules about your cell phone, you will not have this type of consequence.”
  10. If they showed respect during the majority of the conversation, thank them: “Thank you for showing me respect as we talked through this. I appreciate your maturity.”


Describe the situation: “When you were told that you lost your phone, you slammed your door, yelled at me and told me that you hated me.”

Express your feeling: “When you reacted that way, I became angry too, but I also became sad that you said that you hated me.”

Specify your needs: “When you feel angry, I need you to control your temper and not slam the door or scream that you hate me.”

Consequences if needs are not met: “If you do not respond the way that I have asked, I will have to make the consequence more severe, like taking away your phone for an extra day.”