How to Keep Your Cool and Maintain Authority When Arguing with Your Teen

Arguing with your teen doesn’t have to be as dramatic as a Nollywood movie climax.
How to Keep Your Cool and Maintain Authority When Arguing with Your Teen How to Keep Your Cool and Maintain Authority When Arguing with Your Teen
How to Keep Your Cool and Maintain Authority When Arguing with Your Teen
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It’s 11:45 PM on a Friday in suburban Atlanta. Your 17-year-old daughter, Adanna, bursts through the front door, her braids adorned with small cowrie shells clinking softly. The scent of shea butter mixed with a hint of cigarette smoke breezes in. Your nostrils flare. Sound familiar? 

For African parents in the diaspora, arguing with their teen can feel like trying to eat fufu with a fork – frustrating and potentially messy. 

But don’t worry! This guide will equip you with the tools to keep your cool and maintain authority when arguing with your teen, all while navigating the complex waters of dual cultural identities.

Let’s peek into the lives of the Nwosu family as they tackle some all-too-common teen conflicts:

How to Keep Your Cool and Maintain Authority When Arguing with Your Teen
Arguing with their teen can feel like trying to eat fufu with a fork. Image source: Freepik

Scenario 1: The Curfew Catastrophe

Mrs. Nwosu, still in her colorful Ankara print nightgown, paces the living room. The clock on the wall, a gift from her mother in Lagos, ticks accusingly. It’s 1:17 AM when her son Emeka’s key turns in the lock.

“Nna m,” she begins, using the Igbo term of endearment despite her frustration, “where have you been?”

Emeka slumps against the door, the scent of pepperoni pizza clinging to his Atlanta Falcons jersey. “Out. Why you always trippin’?”

Mrs. Nwosu takes a deep breath, recalling strategies for arguing with her teen:

  1. Stay calm: She lowers her voice to just above a whisper, a technique her mother used.
  1. Set clear expectations: “Emeka, we agreed on an 11 PM curfew. It’s now past 1 AM.”
  1. Listen actively: “What kept you out so late? Was there a problem?”
  1. Offer choices, not ultimatums: “You can either come home on time or I’ll need to pick you up myself. Which would you prefer?”

By maintaining her composure, Mrs. Nwosu asserts her authority without escalating the argument into a shouting match.

Scenario 2: The Grade Debacle

Mr. Nwosu adjusts his glasses, squinting at his daughter Adanna’s report card on his iPad. “A C- in AP Calculus? Nne, what happened?”

Adanna rolls her eyes, twirling a cowrie shell between her fingers. “It’s whatever, Dad. I don’t need calculus to become a YouTuber.”

When arguing with your teen about academic performance:

  1. Show empathy: “I remember struggling with derivatives myself. It’s not easy.”
  1. Focus on effort, not just results: “Let’s talk about your study routine. Are you still attending those after-school help sessions?”
  1. Collaborate on solutions: “How about we look into getting a tutor? Maybe someone from the Nigerian Student Association at Georgia Tech?”
  1. Set realistic goals: “Let’s aim for a B+ next quarter. I know you can do it.”

By approaching the issue as a team, Mr. Nwosu avoids a heated argument while still addressing the core problem.

Scenario 3: The Social Media Standoff

It’s 2:23 AM on a Tuesday. Mrs. Nwosu, unable to sleep, peeks into Emeka’s room. She finds him hunched over his phone, the blue light illuminating his face as he rapidly taps the screen.

“Hand it over,” she says firmly, extending her palm.

“Ah ah! You’re so controlling!” Emeka protests. “None of my friends’ parents take their phones!”

When arguing with your teen about technology use:

  1. Establish clear rules: “No phones after 10 PM on school nights. Period.”
  1. Explain your reasoning: “Late-night phone use is affecting your sleep. You’ve been dozing off in Igbo class, and Aunty Ifeoma noticed.”
  1. Be consistent: Enforce consequences every time, even if it means hiding the WiFi router in your underwear drawer.
  1. Model good behavior: Put your phone in a basket during family dinners and Nollywood movie nights.

By setting clear boundaries and sticking to them, Mrs. Nwosu maintains her authority without resorting to threats or raising her voice.

How to Keep Your Cool and Maintain Authority When Arguing with Your Teen
Mrs. Nwosu maintains her authority without resorting to threats or raising her voice. Image source: Freepik

Scenario 4: The Cultural Clash

Adanna walks into the kitchen on Saturday morning, her hair a vibrant blend of blue, green, and purple braids. The aroma of akara frying in the pan momentarily stops as Mr. Nwosu gapes at his daughter.

“Adanna! What have you done to your hair? Is this how we present ourselves as Igbo people?”

When arguing with your teen about cultural differences:

  1. Take a moment before reacting: Count to ten in Igbo if needed.
  1. Ask questions: “What inspired this change? Is this for your YouTube channel?”
  1. Share your perspective: “In our culture, natural hair is deeply valued. Remember the story of your great-grandmother’s long, thick hair?”
  1. Find a compromise: Maybe Adanna can have colorful braids during the summer break but stick to more traditional styles during the school year and family events.

By engaging in a dialogue rather than a lecture, Mr. Nwosu opens the door to mutual understanding and respect.

Conclusion: How to Keep Your Cool and Maintain Authority When Arguing with Your Teen

Remember, arguing with your teen doesn’t have to be as dramatic as a Nollywood movie climax. It’s not about winning the argument – it’s about guiding your teen toward responsible adulthood while honoring both their American present and African heritage.

So the next time your teen pushes your buttons harder than a Lagos traffic jam test your patience, take a deep breath, and remember: This too shall pass. And with these strategies, you’ll pass with flying colors!

READ: Help Your Teen Thrive: 10 Keys to Supporting Their Mental Health

Here are ten keys to supporting your teen’s mental health and ensuring they thrive during these formative years.

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