Dick Vitale, the sports announcer for ESPN, has a common refrain: "Take a time-out, baby!" We doubt he ever thought he'd be used to help parents in conflict with their teenagers. However, this idea of taking a time-out is critical to decreasing tension in your home immediately, especially if you feel the need to defuse an emotional time bomb.
We're going to get into greater detail about taking time-outs when we talk about loving communication in the chapters to come. But as an immediate "life-support" kind of intervention, a time-out can be a real lifesaver.
When the sparks fly and conflict erupts between you and your teenager, don't allow things to spiral out of control. Cut the huge bursts of anger short with a time-out.
We encourage you to actually say, "Whoa, this is getting way out of hand. Let's call a time-out and take a break for a while." A time-out stops the conflict immediately and allows both parties to calm down and collect their emotions.
Dr. John Gottman is a leading researcher in the area of relationships and conflict management, and his primary focus has been marital conflict. He has found that simply getting a couple to refocus their energy on something different for twenty minutes allows them to come back together to restart their conversation, better be able to calmly discuss and start working toward solutions.
The same thing can happen with your teenager! Take a time-out when you feel the argument is no longer productive and is starting to heat up. It's important to know that you're only calling a temporary break. This is not your chance to completely avoid the argument -- it's merely a time to calm down before coming back together to resolve the conflict. The key is to make a commitment to resolve the conflict at a later time. A time-out that doesn't eventually attempt to resolve the problem is, in reality, a withdrawal.
If you follow this rule, you'll see immediate results; fewer angry words exchanged, fewer hurt feelings, and more peaceful resolution. That's worth the effort!
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