IMG_2496Listen up! Are you spending more time arguing with your teens than you would like? Argumentative teens are healthy teens says Andrea Peterson Wall Street Journal contributor. According to Peterson the most argumentative years for teens are between ages 10 to 13. Really? If looking back is 20/20 then it has to be said that my children’s tween years were a window, giving me a glimpse of what lay in wait.

Does that mean its only going to get worse before it gets better? Not necessarily, says Peterson, unless it goes unchecked.

Perhaps the tweens to whom Peterson is referring are emotionally healthy because they are expressing themselves through an argumentative nature and, as a parent at least you can know where they are, so to say. However, I wonder if the argumentativeness is born from an innate desire of tweens to glean insights about their parent’s strategies while all the while, honing their own.

So what’s a parent to do?

Peterson seems to think parents can simply talk tweens into doing what they should do in a 3 to 4 question/answer session. This way tweens cannot wear down parents with continual arguing and both sides, so to say, know the beginning and end point in the discussion before it begins. Personally, I think the talking has to begin long before the tween years. Gentle face-to-face guidance in the formative years goes a long way.

Dr. John Townsend says boundaries are the way to go. By establishing boundaries when children are young and keeping them in place through the tween years, parents are establishing a structured family environment that will provide stability for children as approach the difficult teen years. Townsend teaches that respecting boundaries within the family unit teaches children how to bring that mindfulness with them when they go to college and establish their own life.

The world runs on boundaries so for me, I believe its best to introduce them as early in life as possible. Yes, parents quickly see that each child is born with their own set of challenges, which brings parents the wonderful opportunity of reaching out beyond the inner recesses of their own minds to become even better parents.

Speaking from experience I believe a combination of both boundaries and conversation that keeps tweens and teens on target; and off of the manipulation-mill.

So when is the right time to begin?

It begins with picking up their toys as soon as they can carry them and walk at the same time. What do you mean they will protest? You mean you don’t want to hear the crying fits so it’s just easier to do it yourself? Well, look down the road…do you really want to spent your time washing their clothes while they are off playing with friends when they come home from college for a visit? Of course not! So when they are old enough to attend school, get a sturdy step stool and place it by the washer and teach them how to do laundry. That’s when it begins.

Remember: every moment is a teachable moment. That means someone is learning all the time: parents included.