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Reducing Parent-Child Conflict

Parent-child conflict occurs for many reasons. When it does occur, the entire family can be thrown into emotional turmoil. Resolving a parent-child conflict requires the participation of everyone involved.

Communication is a very beneficial tool in resolving conflict. When parenting, we need to listen to our kids and consider their input. Understanding why parent-child conflict occurs and how to resolve it can help bring harmony back to the entire family.

An important feature of parent-child relationships that affects the negativity of conflicts is that the relationships are not voluntary (i.e., kids do not pick their moms and dads). Like marriage partners, moms and dads and their children develop considerable intimacy. More so than spouses, however, moms and dads and their kids are "bound" in a family relationship, which can serve to intensify serious conflicts between them. Family disputes often represent underlying relational struggles regarding power or intimacy.

Regardless of the "involuntary" nature of parent-child relationships, family conflict has the potential to positively impact kids in the long-run. Childhood conflict interactions can contribute positively to personal and social development because the child is learning conflict resolution skills (assuming the parent is modeling such skills during and after conflict arises).

In addition, moms and dads can develop their negotiation skills in conflicts with their kids. To garner such positive rewards from conflict interactions, family members need two basic skills for conflict management: (a) flexibility versus rigidity and (b) the ability to manage conflict without escalating the severity of the problem.

I am often asked, “What is the best way to reduce conflict with my children?” The #1 thing parents can do to reduce conflict is to teach “self-reliance.” How? By giving them age-appropriate amounts of freedom.

Honor your kid’s need for freedom and exploration while teaching him/her to be safe. After all, you want your son or daughter to develop the ability to survive and thrive without you someday. You are not going to be around forever. You should want your youngster to safely and responsibly handle ever-increasing freedom. Thus, slowly increase the freedom you give your youngster while you teach her/him how to handle that additional freedom.

Your parenting job is to teach your kids to satisfy their need for freedom while you satisfy your need for keeping them safe. This is the process that helps moms and dads and kids handle their inherent conflict. (As an important side-note, safety always comes before freedom, which means that children will not always be able to do what they want if the parent views it as unsafe).

So the next time you get into an argument with your adolescent who wants permission to attend a birthday party that you are worried about, or your 10-year-old wants to go a movie with a friend without adult supervision, or your 3-year-old wants to wander further away from the front porch than you feel comfortable with, take a moment to remember the inherent conflict between you and your youngster.

Is it possible for you to teach your youngster how to handle a little more freedom safely? Can you stretch the limit of what feels safe and comfortable for you, just a little? Take a chance of granting a little more freedom for your kids so that they can stretch their wings and learn to be safe with more freedom. This is fostering the development of self-reliance!

Best Comment:

First of all, I am not a parent, I am just shy of my 21st birthday but I am at my wits end with my younger 17-year-old sister and with my parents' ineffective attempts to deal with her.

The trickiest part about my family's situation is that virtually nobody outside of my immediate family experiences my sister's childish behavior. In some ways, I feel that this is somewhat my fault. When I was younger I was NEVER out of line, since I was in 6th grade I would come home by myself and get all my homework done immediately. The issue is that under these relaxed conditions, I never created any major problems but for my sister there have been disastrous consequences.

At home, my sister spends all of her time of facebook or watching junk television (a la Maury or Jerry Springer), NEVER does any homework and takes no responsibility for herself whatsoever. My parents come home to find messes everywhere such as dishes with old food left everywhere, food packages left out of the refrigerator, bathrooms that look booby-trapped smelling of hairspray with puddles everywhere and somehow she uses all the family shampoo in one shower and it ends up on the bathtub floor where I have slipped, her room looks like something out of A&E's Hoarders and she expects special treatment at the drop of a hat. If I do not get out of the living room to let her watch her show, I get tantrums and non-sequitor responses like "oh yeah, well we aren't going on vacation this year because your summer class cost too much money!", which is essentially her way of saying "well you're not perfect either so you can't tell me what to do so fuck off!"

Thing is, if I tell her to do anything she gets mad at me since I am an older brother, not a parent so I can't tell her what to do, but I'm really trying to avoid hearing a drawn out argument between her and my mother later which I cannot stand anymore. My mother is a lawyer and my father is an engineer and both work full time, they are two of the smartest and most diligent people I know so it drives me up the wall to see them come home every day to a nasty daughter who takes no responsibility for herself. She never cleans up after herself because she assumes she can get away with it and she's right, my parents would rather clean up the kitchen then argue with her about it which she will never do. She sees/saw a therapist and a tutor to help her with various school and home issues and organization respectively. Eventually she made appointments herself due to her complicated tennis schedule which interfered with her former times and she has essentially stopped making them. She did not see either of these expensive professionals as people to aide her to better herself but as a burden my parents placed upon her.

She sees any attempts of advice or direction such as "clean up after yourself" or "do your homework" as a violation of her privacy and the messes that she leaves for my parents to clean up again and again solidify to me that she does not give a shit about anybody else. No one she knows would believe any of this as far as I know; she puts on a facade outside. Perhaps worst of all, I feel like my dog is getting more and more unhealthy whenever I come back from school. In high school I my dog every day with a friend and his dog and would play fetch with a tennis ball every day for close to an hour. Now I am afraid that she gets walked twice a day at most for 15 minutes each. Once at around 7am and the other at around 9pm. She no longer gets any exercise and cannot run like she used to and it pains me to see that whenever I come home.

In short, my sister is utterly sloppy, rude and disrespectful to (seemingly) only my parents and I, my father is quite lame when it comes to giving and enforcing orders (he has issues with depression) and my mother comes home late from work, exhausted and finds my sister's messes to clean up. I am afraid that neither of them is around enough to discipline her and I am afraid she has had too much autonomy at home alone and is too old for discipline to work. The act of working constantly and appeasing my sister's requests and spending money on specialists that make no short-term progress is costly and harmful. I feel as though my parents appease her constantly just to give themselves a break and the stress that we all feel is through the roof. I myself suffer from depression and have gone through several slumps at school which my sister uses (loudly) against me.

It pains me to see my sister get away with so much and my parents under so much stress. Whenever I suggest anything, they dismiss it immediately and don't take my advice seriously because of my age and because they believe that our situation at home is not that bad.


Anonymous said...

Wynette Harmon-Blackburn And that only works when everyone involved wants it resolved. In my case my step-daughter does NOT want it resolved. :( And I have worked so hard for four & a half yrs.
4 minutes ago · Like
Parenting Defiant Children and Teens - Support Group If your step-daughter does not want to resolve conflict, she is trying to create distance... so I would say she doesn't necessarily enjoy the conflict, rather she wants to maintain a wall.

Anonymous said...

Wynette Harmon-Blackburn Yes, I agree. She was abandon by her bio mother in my lap. But she would like for me to leave as well. She wouldn't even come celebrate her birthday with her dad because I was going to be there as well. That is how serious it is.

Anonymous said...

One of my close family members is going through a hard time at the moment with her 14year old daughter. My cousin is at her wits end and at a loss as to what to do, to try and make home life, even life in general better than what she feels it is now. The reason why I have reached out to you is because I can see the toll that these problems are taking on my cousin. More and more she expresses how she just wants to crawl under a rock and stay there. Its worrying me to see her normal happy, positive, optimistic self deteriorate. I believe its because she feels helpless, and like she has failed. Also because she misses her daughter so much but feels she is getting further and further away from reaching her.

I love my neice dearly but am unsure how to help her realise how her behavior is affecting the people who love her the most. At the moment my cousin has been dealing with her daughter running away, lying constantly to school teachers, family members and even to her friends parents. Does not want to follow the rules of the house. Very disrespectful to her Mother, especially the hurtful nasty things she says. Horrible to her sister, just doesnt want to try to make peace. Expressed that shes not going to make an effort to change. Just not interested in being part of our family as a whole. Only wants to hang out with her friends, whether shes allowed to or not.

My Niece has taken off from home and is not there at the current moment. She is staying with another family member temporarily. We are desperate to find a solution to this problem/situation before things spiral more out of control. We are also concerend for my neice's safety. Shes only 14 and is so naive and ignorant to the dangers she could come into contact with "out there". I would hate for anything nasty to happen to her.

Anonymous said...

Ally is almost 16 and has engaged in some very disturbing behavior. Some of these behavioral issues are lying, drinking, engaging in promiscuous activity, screaming, swearing, refusals to come home when in trouble, and most recently lying about a sexual assault.
I am extremely concerned particularly about the later, as she engaged willingly into a sexual act (I have investigated this with all of her friends involved) and when she was asked about this episode her decision was to say she was raped. I would have never known any of this except my friend went to get her ( as she was angry at me and left the house again because she was grounded for a physical fit), and when my friend asked her why she was behaving so badly, she told her she was attacked. I want to trust her however in this case I absolutely know that she is lying because none if the facts add up. In fact, between what she told my friend, myself, my son, and her friends NOT one of the facts are consistent.
I feel that she lied to get the focus off of herself for her earlier behavior in the day.
I am very worried that in a case like this, she is not only harming herself but potentially harming someone else as well.
The lying has been an ongoing issue, but generally fairly white lies, until recently.
The drinking is a relatively new problem, and one that I absolutely do not condone.
Grounding does not work, as she just walks away and refuses to come home, short of calling the local police, I don't know what to do.
She is verbally abusive to her siblings, and uses blame as a tool, she swears, hits, yells, and then if you watch her, she will actually look around the room to see who is paying attention. It is down right scary.
When I try grounding her another common problem is that she will follow me around the house and barricade doors so that I am not able to leave a situation unless I physically remove her from my path. This is not a situation that I like to be put in as I tend to react in a very unhealthy manor.
I have cut off her Internet and cell phone because I am endlessly seeing provocative photos posted on Facebook, and incoming text messages from random people, it seems that any attention is good attention.
I have tried the loving and patient mother routine, however, I am at the point where I am not feeling patient at all, and loving is not how I would describe my feelings at this point.
I try very hard to set rules and boundaries, curfews etc, however she has no respect for what I ask at all.
Ally does not lack for things, she has a decent home, nice clothes, a horse, lots of extra activities and yet she days all of the time that she has nothing and I am a bad mother.
She is demanding of my attention, and if I dont act immediately, she gets pretty angry, swearing and name calling.

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