Conflict is a normal part of any relationship, particularly family relationships due to the amount of time spent together. Conflict is not necessarily bad, what matters is how you deal with conflict when it arises. There will be times where there is more conflict between a parent and child than usual, such as the ‘terrible twos’ and the teenage years. It is important to remember that it is normal and appropriately resolving conflict can teach your child coping strategies and emotional regulation.
Here are some tips to help you effectively deal with parent child conflict.
Question why your child is acting a certain way.
There are multiple reasons why a child may display problem behaviour such as:
- Being treated that way by other people.
- They are upset about something else and need help.
- They feel they are being misunderstood or their thoughts and feelings are being ignored.
- They want attention, warmth and empathy. However, negative attention may be better than no attention.
Don’t view the conflict as a battle of wills or a fight.
It is not about winning but rather communicating until the problem is resolved or a compromise is made. It is also important not to view conflict as being anyone’s fault. How you view conflict may unconsciously affect how you behave.
React appropriately to conflict.
Try to keep calm. If a child has broken a rule because they were upset about something else important, they need warmth and empathy, not punishment. If you are in a safe environment (for your child) and feel you are too worked up to respond appropriately it may be best to tell your child that you will come and talk to them once you calm down.
Don’t force a child to apologise.
Once a conflict has been resolved and the child feels their perspective has been understood they are likely to apologise anyway. A lack of apology may signal that you have not fully resolved a conflict with your child; they still may feel you have not understood their perspective. Some children may need you to lead by example and apologise first. Remember that children are still learning how to cope with emotions and conflict.
Avoid rejection and criticism.
Harsh criticism and insults during an argument can have a lasting negative impact on a relationship. It is important to stay calm, explain how you feel and why rather than harshly commenting on behaviour. For example, ‘You’re always late! You do it on purpose to make me angry! Why are you so nasty?!’ does not resolve a conflict and may damage a relationship. It is better to say something along the lines of ‘Why were you late? It upsets me because I worry when you haven’t come home by the time you told me’.
Be aware of your body language and tone.
Remember that you may be much taller than your child and you may accidentally use body language which can be intimidating or show that you are angry even if your words are not angry. Tone can easily give away how someone really feels, a child may not believe you understand them if you say you do but still sound angry. Some people naturally talk louder than others. You may feel you are talking in a normal voice, whereas, to an introverted, quieter child it may seem like you are shouting.
Resolving a conflict is not the same as ending an argument.
When a conflict is resolved both people feel their perspective has been understood and they come to a mutual agreement or compromise. Someone giving up in an argument and walking off or ignoring conflict altogether does not resolve it. Ignoring conflict can be just as bad as having a heated verbal argument.
Remember that all children want warmth and understanding from their parents even if their behaviour suggests otherwise. Make sure you show that you will love and support them even if you sometimes disagree and get annoyed at each other; don’t just assume they know this. If you feel you have an unusual amount of conflict with your child or that conflicts are not being resolved seek professional guidance.
Article By: Vision Counselling and Psychology, Perth Western Australia
Web Address: www.visioncounselling.com.au
Published: 19/09/2015 “Type of Parent Child Conflict”, Rachel Terry (eHow), Available: http://www.ehow.com/info_8202400_types-parentchild-conflict.html (Accessed: 2014, November 07) http://peaceful-parent.com/resolving_conflict.php (Accessed: 2014, November 07). “Conflict: “Parent-Child Relationships”, Available: http://family.jrank.org/pages/314/Conflict-PARENT-CHILD-RELATIONSHIPS.html (Accessed:2014, November 07). Image Reference: Dollar Photo Club