Avoiding conflict

I am asked so many times ifmy girls help me with the little boys or the housework - in short.the answer is no! I can ask one or other of them to put Ben to bed or try to calm Joe down and they do occasionally try, but teenagers are naturally self-absorbed. Each one of them has his or her own personality, worries and difficulties to attend to. Whether it is a spot on their nose, a fall out with a boyfriend or school pal, or just a hormonal mood, the girls and the boys seldom mix. In a large house and with so many sorts of autism and personalities, my job is that of a mediator, a negotiator, a referee.. .call it what you like but I am sure all of you parents of more than one child know all too well how hard it is to balance so many differing needs.

Although I am here to mediate, to listen, to pick up the pieces and to bail the children out when things get tough, I am painfully aware that my job as a parent is to enable them to live in the real world. As they learn to establish their own identities I am sure I needn't tell you that conflict is inevitable! Whilst I cannot profess to have all the answers, there are some ways which may just make the rites ofpassage from childhood to adulthood slightly more bearable for all members of the family and may, just may, reduce such conflict.

• Reward good behaviour. Adolescents are establishing their sense ofselfand need to be noticed. Ifonly bad behaviour attracts attention then it is likely to be repeated. When a teenager comes home on time or has worked hard for an exam, then praise him or her for doing so.

• Avoid confrontation as much as possible. Rebellion stems from adolescents needing to establish their own identities and be different to their parents. Often adolescents are as uncomfortable about their decisions as the parent is and are merely standing their ground.

• Negotiate rather than issuing orders. Young people are less likely to feel grieved ifthey realize that you are prepared to listen and meet them midway. In my experience however, it is only at the age ofaround sixteen and above that young people are more able to compromise. Younger adolescents are far more rigid.

• Don't force your opinions on the young person. Adolescents are far more likely to contradict you and rebel, merely to make a point, ifyou present an issue in absolute terms. Offering the pros and cons ofa situation and letting them come to their own conclusions will empower young people to take responsibility.

• Explain the reasons for a particular rule or action. Adolescents are trying to establish themselves as young adults and need to feel as if they are being treated as equals.

• Be prepared to bargain. By acknowledging that there is room for improvement on both sides, conflict can often be avoided.

• Turn a blind eye to certain behaviours such as sulking or rudeness. Adolescents often behave this way in a bid to attract attention. By ignoring the behaviour it often dissipates (though may sometimes get worse before it gets better).

• Tolerate as much as you can and remind yourself that this is a necessary stage of development and will pass (I know -easier said than done!).

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