Examples for Expressing Conflict between Parents and Teens

What Happened?

To resolve a conflict between a teen and a parent, we first need to separate our judgments from what actually happened. Why is this important? Because our judgments are often made up of old thoughts and feelings that cause us to react, blame and attack the other person. We project our past impressions on to our current situations. See Projections

Attack and blame escalate conflict.

To help you distinguish what happened from our judgments, we have provided some examples below.

Examples of What Happened?

My Mother said that I could not go out with my friends for a month.

My daughter said that I was out of it and had never understood her.

Examples of Judgments About What Happened

My mom has no idea about my world and what matters to me. She basically is involved with herself, and once in awhile takes time to relate to me.

My daughter is rude and insensitive. She won't talk to me about things that matter to her.

Communicating only what happened without your judgments will allow the other person to hear your side of the conflict without having to go into a defensive mode. No Attack—no defense or counter attack is needed.

How did it make you feel?

In this step you identify how you feel about what happened and express your feelings in a way that allows others to hear them. Identifying how you feel can be difficult because it is easier to get caught in the blame and judgments and not be connected to how you are feeling.

Examples of feeling statements

I feel disconnected from my mother and this makes me sad. I feel she doesn't respect my judgments and often misunderstands my behavior and what I am saying. I am frustrated because she doesn't seem to focus on what I am trying to tell her, so I just stop talking to her.

I feel rejected by my daughter. I sometimes feel that she hates me. I am worried that she spends all her time with a group of friends that seem to have really negative attitudes. It makes me angry that she doesn't seem to take my concerns seriously.

What are your needs in this situation?

Although the other person's actions or speech may have triggered a lot of feelings, underneath these feelings are unmet needs. It's important to realize what your needs are and when they are not being honored.

In this step we are asking you to identify your own needs.

Examples of needs that may not have been responded to in the examples above:

I need you to spend some quality time with me so that I can trust that you actually care. I need to know that you are trying to understand my thoughts and feelings.

I need for you to try to understand how much pressure I am under from my job and that my time is limited. I need you to understand that I care deeply about you and will try to make more time for us to be together. I have felt that I needed to prioritize my work but this has been at your expense.

Here is a list of some needs that arise in relationships and cause conflicts when they are not recognized and not expressed.

Attention: Needing the other person to be focused on and attending to what you’re are saying or doing.

Understanding: Needing others to grasp the intended meaning of your words or actions.

Contingency: Needing others to respond to your actions or words in ways that you expect.

Joining: Needing to be able to share meanings and values with another person or group.

Recognition: Needing others to see and hear you and give value to what you are doing, thinking or feeling.

Respect: Wanting others to listen and respond to your feelings and needs with the sense that they value you and treat you as an individual with your own values and boundaries.

Security: Needing to feel that your environment is safe, that you are protected and do not fear that your boundaries will be violated. Needing to feel that you matter to others, that you are cared for wanted and protected.

Dependability: Needing to feel that you can rely on others and be able to trust that they will act and speak truthfully.

Mutuality: Needing to feel a sense of balance with others that you both are giving and receiving equally.

Connection: Needing to feel on the same page with others. Needing to feel a part of a relationship or group.

Affiliation: Needing to have a sense of belonging. Needing to have friendships and feel part of a group of your peers.

Intimacy: Having a sense of closeness to certain people in your world. Feeling emotionally and physically connected.

Autonomy: Experiencing a need for independence. Wanting to do things on your own and in your own way.

What do you want the other person to understand about this situation or your feelings/ needs?


I want you to understand that you're having so little time for me really hurts my feelings. I have learned to take care of myself in a difficult situation. I have learned to make my own decisions and I need for you to respect them.

I want you to get that having to choose between time with you and time on the job has been a horrible conflict for me. I am trying to change things so that you and I can reconnect and be able trust each other more.

What do you request from the other person?

Now that your have expressed yourself, there is an opportunity for you to ask for what you need from the other person. Focus on what you want from them; not what you don't want. Make your request clear and specific.

I request that you take time to spend with me so that you can listen to my thoughts and feelings about what I am doing. If you cannot spend time with me to talk, then try to realize that you may have drawn the wrong conclusion about my actions.

I request that you take my concerns about your friends seriously and think about what I have said. I request that you accept my sadness and regret that I have felt I had to prioritize my job at your expense.


Examples of How to Respond

An important part of effective communication is to be able to let the other person know that you understand what they mean. If you reflect back accurately, they will experience being heard by you. Often when people are heard, their upset disappears. If you do not reflect back to them accurately the conflict will remain and they will continue to feel unheard. Try to imagine how the other person is feeling so that your reflections convey that you actually understand what they are feeling.

It is important to reflect back until each person feels understood.

Reflecting back will:

Increase understanding in your relationship

Prevent misunderstandings from occurring in the future, and

Deepen your emotional relationship with one another.

Some Phrases used in Reflecting Back:

What I think you said is:

What I heard you say is:

How I think you felt is

What I get you want me to understand is:

Here are some examples of statements which reflect your understanding back to each other.

I think that you want me to understand that you have suffered from my not being there for you and that you have had to take care of yourself. You need me to get it that you have grown up and have made decisions for yourself and you need my respect for you.

I think you want me to get that it has been hard on you to have all the pressure on you from work and that your having to choose to be so involved with your work has hurt you too, because you also wanted to be with me. You want me to understand that you are trying to change.

There are three choices in how to respond to the other person's request:

If you wish to counter-offer their request; state specifically what action you are willing to take to support them in having their needs met. If you wish to decline their request, be in dialogue with them to negotiate an acceptable response that will work for both of you.

Here are examples of responding to a request:

I accept this request to reconsider your actions when I start to question them. I will try to remember that you have learned a lot from the experience of being on your own. I accept your request that I spend more time with you and I will do what it takes to make that happen.

I accept your request that I consider your concerns. I actually, already do.

I counter offer your request to understand your sadness and regret about not being there for me, with: I am trying, but it is hard because it has been very hurtful.