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Helping Teens Manage Conflict

August 2006 article

Teens need to learn how to manage conflict in positive ways to prevent dangerous confrontations. You can teach teens about positive and negative conflict, and how to recognize physical and behavioral signs that can trigger anger or negative conflict. You can also teach them about conflict resolution.

Explain to teens that conflict can be both positive (e.g., a debate or problem solving) and negative (e.g., violence and war). Moreover, not all conflict leads to violence and anger. A person can manage conflict with positive behaviors by identifying the problem and working toward a solution.

To learn to manage conflict, teens need to realize what triggers their anger, or what they do that may trigger anger in others. Triggers are words or actions that immediately cause an angry or other emotional response. A trigger might be a certain expression, stereotype, or phrase. Once teens know their triggers, they can improve their control over their reactions. Before reacting to a trigger, teens should make sure that they are really listening to what the other person is saying. If teens are actively listening, instead of thinking about their response, they can decipher clues such as tone and body language to determine what is actually being said. 

Remind teens that in conflict, the problem should be tackled, and not the person with the conflicting opinion. Teens can move toward solving conflict by identifying the problem, stating their needs, and discussing ways to meet needs and solve the problem. However, remind teens that they will need to be flexible and willing to compromise in order to resolve the problem. If teens can’t solve the problem themselves, help them mediate the situation.

For more information about managing conflict, review Community Works Sessions 7 and 8, and the NCPC brochure, Making Peace: Tips on Conflict Management (PDF).

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