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Parenting Humor: How To Start a Fight With Your Teenager in Just 4 Words

Them’s fighting words. Yep, our Mad Lib-style request “Start a fight in four words” garnered written responses from more than 150 of you on social media and showed us that some hot-button fights are universal.

In my house, the simple request “Stop bugging your brother” (often made after errant behavior has gone on far too long and I’m super exasperated) is sure to unleash a cascade of venom: “But he this.” “He always that.” “It’s my turn.” “You always take his side.”

I have to sit back and wonder if I want to escalate this discussion. Let’s be honest, do I even care? They’re teenage siblings—fights like these have gone on since they were 2, 4, and 6 years old, and they’re apparently unlikely to be over 10 to 20 years later.

Are sibling fights forever and must you intervene? Let’s hope not. There are so many other ways to start a fight with your teenager. Here’s what you told us.

Mom Humor: How to Pick a Fight With Your Kids

They resist doing chores.

Roughly one-third of the responses to our Mad Lib were chore-related. Whether it’s a dishwasher that needs unloading, a room that needs cleaning, a dog that needs walking (or being fed, or the worst, being cleaned up after), trash that needs emptying, or litter boxes that need cleaning, they’re not having it.

Although our teens resist when chore requests are given, kudos to most parents for changing simple three-word directives like “clean your room” and “empty the trash” to four-word pleasantries by adding the word “please.” Another way to make any of these commands four words and up the ante for a fighting response? Add the word “now.”

They love their devices.

The second most popular category was device-related: “No more electronic devices.” “Put your phone down.” “Give me your phone.” One fearless parent wrote, “I’m unplugging the WiFi.” Yikes! Use that one at your own peril.

We also learned that even when device access failures are not our fault, our teens blame us. The most popular anger-inspiring conundrum: “The Wi-Fi is down.”

We have different tastes.

A good bit of comments related to clothing or grooming—from “skirt is too short” to “are you wearing that” to “time for a haircut.” For sure, teens are unclear on what constitutes proper seasonal attire, as evidenced by “It’s winter; no sandals.” (In my house, it’s “Shorts in snow? Hmmmmm.”)

Checking in is unwelcome.

And then there’s the age-old, sure to start a teen fight, what are you even thinking when you ask this question: “How was your day?” Or even “Good morning, my darling.” Or maybe the ultimate sin: the combo “Morning! How are you?”

There you have it. Rest assured knowing that if your teen responds angrily to what seems like everyday expectations and completely neutral—potentially even friendly—words or advice, your teen household is normal.

And now it’s your turn to weigh in. Make sure to join in on our latest conversation on our Facebook page.

Cathie Ericson is a freelance writer based in Portland, Oregon, and mom of three teen boys. Read more about Cathie at

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