It’s important to avoid fighting words if you want to get along with others. Your teen will be especially sensitive towards you use of certain words. These include:


  • You Should (have to, must, need to, supposed or ought to)
  • You Always
  • You Never
  • Why – why did you, or why won’t you.
  • Name calling – You are a …


Here is an example of a conversation using fighting words: You should do the dishes. You never clean up. You always leave messes. Why can’t you just clean up after yourself? You are such a pig.


Can you imagine your teen responding to you with “yes, I love you and I will happily do the dishes?” I don’t think so either.


Instead of attacking with “you,” change to “I”. (Yes, I know you were taught as a child not to say I, but it’s necessary for good communication.)


  • I see
  • I need
  • I think
  • I feel


Here is the new conversation: I did the dishes last night, and now I see dirty dishes on the counter. I feel upset because having a clean kitchen is important to me.


You may also want to add an incentive such as: I will cook dinner when the dishes are washed. I need the space to cook. Then don’t nag your child. If you spoke to him face-to-face (not yelling from another room) then you know he heard you. Hunger will be his motive to do the dishes eventually. If you want respect from your child (spouse, co-worker, boss, friend, family) then you need to show respect through use of I words rather than the fighting words starting with you should.