Teaching Your Teen to Better Manage Conflicts


Our daily interactions include a variety of communication styles, and the ways in which we give and receive information can often result in a conflict. Think about your teen. Does your teen struggle to get along with siblings or classmates? Do they sometimes avoid conflict while ignoring their own needs? Conflict is an unavoidable part of life. We can, however, learn how to manage conflict and respond to it in a way that preserves relationships and results in better outcomes for all involved. This five-minute video describes conflict management.



Conflict management is an interpersonal competency that helps us resolve issues with others successfully. Conflict happens every day, and it’s a natural part of our interactions. We want our teens to be able to successfully navigate conflicts not only within school, but also as they become adults with their friends, family, and co-workers. Before we can talk to our teens about how they might react when involved in a conflict, they need to understand the meaning of the term.

Generally, conflict is defined as a struggle between people with opposing needs, beliefs, or goals. Managing conflict involves finding ways to respond that lessen tension and resolve situations agreeably. To appropriately respond to conflict, it is important to understand conflict management. Listen as Dr. Pattie Noonan, Associate Research Professor at the University of Kansas, discusses how to explain conflict management to your teen.



Are there times when you wish your teen had approached a conflict differently? Are there times when they failed to understand the situation or another person’s perspective? Are there times when their efforts to resolve a conflict failed, and they avoided the issue? The first step in conflict management is “knowing how you usually respond to conflict.” There are five conflict management styles, and we all have used them at different times depending on the conflict. When we know and understand these styles, we can make better choices when faced with conflict. Dr. Noonan explains the five conflict management styles in this short video.



Many of us respond to conflict with anger. Everyone gets angry and has the right to feel anger. Anger is a feeling, and while we can’t avoid feelings, we can better understand why we have certain feelings and learn techniques for managing feelings such as anger. Watch as Dr. Noonan explains the underlying emotions related to anger and ways to manage it.



The second part of managing conflict is “knowing the reasons for the conflict.”  Conflicts often arise, and we react without taking the time to understand the perspectives of all involved. Dr. Noonan explores understanding the context of the situation in the following video.



The final step in conflict management is “taking steps to manage the conflict.” When your teen can recognize the styles of managing conflict and begin to choose the appropriate style for a specific situation, that’s managing a conflict. Not all teens (or adults) can apply each conflict management style at first, particularly in situations with authority figures or certain peers. As they build their knowledge, they will be capable of using more complex management styles. Compromise and collaboration are the two styles that involve expressing wants, needs, and thoughts while also respecting the other person’s wants, needs, and thoughts. To do that in a disagreement, teens can be taught negotiation. Dr. Noonan explains negotiation in this two and half-minute video.



Next Steps


  • As you observe conflict in television shows, books, movies, and in everyday life, take time to talk with your teen about which conflict management styles they observed. Discuss the results of each conflict management style used and which style might have produced a more desirable conclusion. Having these conversations is a good way to help your teen understand how the different conflict management styles affect the outcome.

  • Have your teen take the Conflict Management Styles Assessment to determine their preferred conflict management style. Help them to determine which style they’d like to work on and how they might practice that particular style.

  • Keep a copy of the Anger Iceberg handy. When they experience anger, help your teen explore what underlying emotions might have contributed to the anger.

  • Watch The Blind Men and the Elephant and talk to your teen about others’ perspectives.  How might your teen start thinking about the views of others involved in a conflict? When a dispute arises, ask questions such as “What feelings might be behind that person’s words/actions?” “Why might they be feeling that way?” or “How would you feel in that situation?”

  • When a conflict arises at home, try using the Six Steps for Negotiating to Resolve a Conflict as a family. Modeling the use of negotiation will help your teen be able to use negotiation when conflicts arise in other environments.