Before we have children, many of us think we know what parents are doing wrong. When we see kids throwing tantrums in public, we believe we’ll be able to do better. Or, on the flip side, we see those things happening and realize we don’t know what we’d do in their shoes!
But once we become parents, we have no choice but to learn to navigate the inevitable conflicts of child-rearing. This reality means realizing that our assumptions about our ability to do better than other parents are likely wrong. Or, we might be more successful than we thought possible.
Navigating conflict is a balancing act. It is often a trial-and-error approach. Being successful at it, however, is possible. Here are five ways to navigate parent/child conflicts successfully.
1. Educate Yourself
Build an understanding of the development ages and stages of your children. Combing through pregnancy and baby books is common, but it’s easy to forget to keep learning about them as they grow.
Keeping a child’s developmental period in mind is one of the most important things to remember when navigating parent/child conflict. Misbehavior is often a normal part of development.
For better or worse, kids begin trying to assert their independence early and keep it up for the rest of their lives. A conflict that arises is not a personal attack on you or a sign that you’re a terrible parent.
2. Try Out Different Approaches
Kids’ personalities are as unique as their fingerprints. A parenting approach that works perfectly for your friend may prove to be useless for you. It may take several different attempts to find what will click with your family system. And that’s ok.
All relationships have nuances that likely won’t fit perfectly into any one method. What works when they’re five may no longer work when they’re ten.
3. Help Teach Them Autonomy
Given that children will (hopefully) grow up and move out on their own, areas of conflict help teach valuable lessons. When you implement healthy consequences, they learn to be responsible for their behavior. Likewise, if you’re able to have empathy for them even when they infuriate you, they will learn valuable lessons in emotional intelligence.
4. Take Care of Yourself
Parents are better able to navigate conflict with their children when they find a way to meet some of their own needs as well. Of course, this is much easier said than done. Remembering the basics never hurts, though:
- Get enough sleep
- Try to make time for moderate exercise, even if it’s speed walking through the grocery store while making last-minute dinner purchases (involve the kids)
- Implement simple stress management, such as deep breathing
- Establish support networks, such as close friends
- Give yourself grace when you make mistakes
The beautiful thing is that when you take care of yourself in this way, you’re also teaching your kids to take care of themselves.
5. Have Fun Together
Getting trapped in the conflict cycle is so easy to do. We, along with our kids, may feel like all we do is argue. Even if it’s unintentional, conflict may come to overshadow all of our interactions.
Building positive memories, traditions, and routines as a family are a few ways to combat this. As is sometimes said, we need to make deposits into our relationships with our children, not just withdrawals. By establishing healthy connections, managing conflict may even become easier and more straightforward.
With this in mind, inject some fun into your daily interactions with your kids. Find things to do together that you all enjoy. Play hide and seek in the house, surprise them with a tickle attack, cook together, play video games together, go to the park together, or whatever suits your interests. Family activities will adapt and change as they grow, of course.
Sometimes your attempts to manage conflict don’t work. Family therapy, even if only for a few sessions, can be invaluable at better understanding your family dynamics.
A therapist can offer parenting strategies you weren’t aware of. And sometimes, children do have underlying behavioral challenges (ADHD, sensory processing issues, or others) that benefit significantly from professional assistance. Therapists can help evaluate your child for such possibilities.
We are passionate about working with parents and children. Please reach out to our office if you’re struggling.