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The 5-Message-Strategy to Manage Conflict with your Teen

Updated: Jun 24, 2021

During the teen years, young people often clash with their friends or parents. They are becoming more independent and are developing individual views and opinions. As a parent, you can help your teen learn important conflicts management skills.

Consider the following tips to make dealing with conflict more successful:

1. Create a sense of calmness - Take a few deep breaths to calm down or take a break before having the conversation. You can also come back to it at a later time.

2. Be present - Try to stop what you are doing and make eye contact. This helps to show interest and confidence for the conversation.

3. Demonstrate respect - listen to understand rather than to respond. Repeat what you heard to make sure there are no misunderstandings.

4. Be open to hearing your teen’s point of view first and then express your own point of view. Again by trying to understand your teen first there is a higher chance for it being open to listen to you as well.

To prevent confrontation, both individuals have to be somewhat open about their feelings. Therefore acting as a role model for your teen is important. Expressing feelings can help you both understand why the other person is reacting the way they are and where each person is coming from.

Confrontation instead can end up saying ‘I am right, you are wrong’ which can break down the relationship between you and your teen. It can dismantle trust and makes it hard to be tolerant towards each other. Aim to complete the conversation towards your teenager with the relationship still intact. The 5-Message strategy can help with that.

Using the ‘5 Message Strategy’:

The 5-Message- Strategy includes stating

1. feelings

2. thoughts

3. observation

4. needs

5. expectation or wants.


As a parent you might be worried about your teen becoming more independent and going out more often. You could start the conversation by saying:

I feel (feeling) worried about your safety when I don’t know where you are. When I don’t hear from you (observation) I think (thoughts) something bad happened to you. I need (need) reassurance that you're safe if you’re out at night. It helps (expectation) if you tell me where you’re going and who you’re with before you leave and check in with me .

As with everything this strategy requires practise and consistency. Despite best efforts, one of you might have a hard time staying calm or feeling disappointed. It’s ok to accept that and even mention it so that the other person knows where you are at. Give each other space.

When you are feeling angry yourself, take time out so you can work out how you’re going to deal with your feelings first e.g. Taking that break when you need to, is showing your teen a useful skill when it comes to regulating emotions. This isn’t always easy. It takes practice to stay consistent with the message. Yet by allowing yourself to express yourself and staying kind to yourself while respecting the other person, you will learn to become calmer and deal with conflict more successfully.

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