Here’s my bold statement: I think a lot of parent/child fights can be avoided.
That’s right. We can be good parents and not be fighting so much with our kids.
It’s not a rite of passage.
I’m not saying ALL parent/child fights can be avoided. Just a lot of them. Ever noticed that at almost every age, parents who have come before you let you know that the age your child is an age likely to yield rebellion? Terrible twos. When’re they’re seven or eight and want to do everything themselves. Or when they’re nine and beginning to experience hormonal ‘disturbances’. And of course when they’re teenagers and are REALLY rebellious.
I think we’re set up to believe thatfighting with our kids is the norm and that we keep passing this message downto each generation.
On top of the whole generational messageset up, the other part working against peace and goodwill among all is control.Parents are often asserting it. Kids are often resisting it. And then thefighting starts.
I don’t think we need to be fighting so muchand I think it only makes things worse. Who wants THAT?
One of the first discussions I always leadin parenting group is exploring the question, “What do I want for my child?”The answers usually include,
“To connect with them”
You’ll note that compliance and control don’tmake the list at all. They haven’t yet. In fact, compliance and control seem tobe in direct conflict with what parents are seeking – their children’s independence,competence, etc.
So, why are we fighting with our kids somuch of the time when the fighting doesn’t even get us what we want?
I think it’s because of habit and because we’renot thinking about what we want for ourselves and for our kids. I also thinkthat sometimes we’re scared about what’s going to happen next so we’re tryingto control the outcome through controlling our children’s behaviour.
We move from holding our kids back from the street when we don’t want them to run out and get hit by a car to restricting our kids’ screen time because we don’t want their brains to melt and their attention and focus to suck. The thing is, that at some point in time our kids need to learn how to cross the street and regulate their screen time (maybe a bad example since adults have such a hard time with the same…). So, how do we get from holding our kids back from the street and locking away their devices so they can play outside?
Practice. Lots of practice.
It’s like this:
A mother who cares about the health of herchild (and possibly wants time on her own at night without parentingresponsibilities) sets a bedtime for her child. So far, so good, right? That’sjust good responsible parenting and self-care.
A child wants to set her own bedtime. Shethinks she knows when she’s tired and she doesn’t want to be told when to go tobed.
The mother and the child argue about bedtime every night. The child says she doesn’t want to be told when to go to bed.The mother says that the child is tired in the morning and that it’s importantfor adults to have time on their own each night. Every night it’s the samething, over drawn out over at least an hour.
No one gets what they want – the childdoesn’t get to set her own bedtime, the mother doesn’t have her child going tobed at a good time for her health and she doesn’t get the time that she wasseeking on her own.
On top of the losses, the mother anddaughter also miss out on an opportunity to connect before bed time. They’renot cuddling, they’re not reading, they’re not talking about their days.
The mother and the child are disagreeingabout bedtime.
The mother sets aside some time (that isNOT bed time), when both the mother and child can give each other their fullattention. The mother introduces the topic of bedtime, saying something like,“I’d like for us to work on solving the disagreement we’ve been having aboutbedtime. I’d like to understand your point of view more and I’m hoping that Ican help you understand mine more. I think that once we understand each othermore that we might be able to find a solution where we both get what we need.”
The mother briefly talks about her thoughtsabout sleep and health as well as needing her own rest. She invites herdaughter to talk about her thoughts and feelings around bedtime. The mother iscareful not to correct what her daughter says or to disagree with it. Themother than invites her daughter to brainstorm solutions with her as to howthey can both get what they want.
They arrive at a solution and make a planto test it, also determining when they will evaluate the implementation to seeif it meets both their needs.
For everyone who grew up in the land of“Sometimes life is unfair.” This scenario might seem like too much hearts andflowers and too little structure and hard knocks. I get it and I feel it. Atthe same time, there is a pile of parenting, organizational and disputeresolution research that shows increasing our perspectives and working towardsa win-win situation is not only possible, but desirable from the point of viewof satisfying outcomes and building high levels of well-being.
Who doesn’t want that?
We don’t need to give into the myths thatparents fight with their children all the time. We can be fighting less and developingproblem solving skills more. Then, not only do we reduce the conflict betweenour kids and ourselves – we also reduce the conflict between our goals of ourchildren’s independence and competence and the reality of us controlling thembecause we’re afraid they’re not capable of solving the problem with us.
If you’re interested in picking up some tools to reduce the conflict you’re having with your child, click here for a simple conflict reducing guide.
Peace : )