Parenting Adolescents by Kevin Huggins (part 3): Building Relationships with Teens that Can Endure the Tests of Conflict

Should I Become More or Less Involved with My Teen?

In chapter 7, Huggins addresses the subject of how to respond to conflicts with our teens. Like many of you, I do not always want to admit that conflict is a necessary part of life. I know this from my marriage, but struggle to admit that it will be a necessary part of my relationship with my kids as well. In this chapter, Huggins reminded me that I need to see conflict as an opportunity to deepen my relationship with my teen and to understand them better. He points out the danger of having a shallow relationship with my teen in which a central goal is to avoid conflict (165). In order to have productive conflicts with our teens, we need to be building strong relationship with them that are based on deepening levels of involvement with them (176).

The Four Levels of Involvement

Becoming involved with our teens requires time and investment. Huggins outlines four levels of involvement that parents need to pursue (patiently) with their teens (178-184). First, they need to cultivate “intellectual involvement,” which requires them to investigate what their kids are experiencing, thinking, and feeling. The next level is “material involvement.” This is his way of referring to inviting a teen to engage in something meaningful with a parent. The goal here is to provide opportunities to strengthen the parent-teen relationship. Third comes “empathetic involvement,” when the teen feels like it is safe to become more vulnerable with the parent and the parent is able to hear what their teen is struggling with and to respond with empathy. Fourth is the stage of “dynamic involvement” in which the parent is able to work with the teen to make changes in the course that he or she is pursuing in life. Huggins suggests in this chapter that parents tend to want “dynamic involvement” with their kids without cultivating the preliminary levels of involvement first. Leaving out the preliminary levels often leads to frustration for parents, because their teens do not respond to their attempted interventions (176).

So, this challenge from Huggins leaves me with some questions. Where should I start? And with which teen? What about you? Where would you like to start in building your relationship with your teen(s)?

Complete Book Information:

Kevin Huggins. Parenting Adolescents. Colorado Springs: Navpress, 1989.

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