Negotiating Parent Child Conflicts

Negotiating parent child conflicts can be tricky, but it is made easier if parents understand a few techniques and methods to help resolve these and minimize the difficulty that conflicts present.

When you find yourself in the middle of one of these parent child conflicts, remember these tips:

  1. Establish the ground rules. Some things are negotiable – like whether the child gets to go to the park or the movies or not, and if that is the case spell this out as soon as the conflict starts. “Okay, I realize we have a difference of opinion,” you can tell your child.”That’s okay. So let’s see if we can talk about this and work out a plan that will make both of us happy, what do you say?” Other things are not up for negotiation, like safety practices such as wearing a seatbelt or staying out after dark. So tell the child, but remember that just because it is not up for negotiation it should still be open for discussion. “I am going to have to be firm on this one,” you might tell your kids. “But I don’t want to argue or fight with you. Plus you deserve to know why because it is really for your own good. So let’s sit down and talk about this, shall we?”
  2. Spell out what you expect so there is no confusion. Nothing leads to conflict more than misunderstandings based on a lack of clear communication. Write it down if you have to, but do what it takes to explain your expectations, your rules, or other things that might lead to a disagreement and conflict. Later if the child starts resisting and arguing you can refer back to that conversation or to the written account of it to refresh their understanding that they knew going into the situation what was expected of them.
  3. Resist the urge to rush when a conflict is threatening to create problems. You may need to set aside special time to talk to your child, and you may need to be willing to revisit the topic over and over until the conflict is totally resolved. But the investment of time spent working these things out in a mutually beneficial and agreeable way goes toward diffusing future conflicts, so it is well worth the effort.

It can take a huge amount of patience and tolerance to work through a bigger type of conflict. But in the end it is the love of the parent for the child – and the child’s desire to reciprocate that affection – that will win. Most of these little skirmishes are, however, no big deal. They happen in the moment and can seem larger than life at the time. But sometimes they are forgotten within a matter of minutes. Still – whether they are big or small – conflicts are important, and learning to negotiate them to a satisfying conclusion is a crucial parenting skill.