How to Backpedal After an Argument with a Teenager

It is impossible not to fight with your teen sometimes. Hormones are raging, their brains haven’t developed important skills that allow them to assess risks and we as parents often don’t fully understand what our children are dealing with. This makes the occasional spat inevitable as misunderstandings occur.

Learning better communication tactics would benefit you both. But there is more to it than just changing the way you speak to one another. Your job is to help give your teen valuable life lessons that will get them through life’s challenges. One of the best lessons you can impart is how to admit you are wrong.

The Art of Backpeddling

Usually when you hear the term “backpeddling” it is in a negative context. The connotation seems to be that you are trying to remove yourself from a mistake. Does that really have to be the case? At its core, backpeddling is just admitting you made an error in the first place. When we are in an argument with our teenage children we may have a tendency to double down even if there is no reason not to compromise or admit fault.

The problem with that knee jerk reaction is that it teaches our children to be stubborn even in the face of negative consequences. Instead of stopping the argument and admitting that we are not addressing the issue in a rational and adult way, we dig ourselves into a deeper hole.

Taking the Harder Road

A lot of parenting is about taking the more difficult road. Admitting we are wrong and potentially losing face in front of our children definitely qualifies as that. Especially as research shows that there could be an actual neurological reason that we struggle to do it.

In the end it comes down to two things, practice and mindfulness. Try this:

  1. When you are slipping into an argument take a second to stop and ask yourself what the best possible outcome will be.
  2. Be prepared to consider your teens point of view.
  3. If you say something automatically (such as a knee jerk ‘no’), consider the position…did it make sense, or were you just reacting?
  4. If the above answer is that it didn’t make sense or it was the wrong thing to do, own up to it. Say that you apologize and were wrong and then approach it using the steps above.

Learning to speak more effectively is a great way to stop arguments in their tracks and improve your relationship with your child. There is no better time to start practicing that approach than the present, so don’t be afraid to backpedal!

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