Conflict is Here to Stay and That’s Good

Hey, you’re a pleasant person (most of the time) and you devote lots of time and energy to your kids? What’s all this conflict about? After all, your kids’ lives are pretty good. Why aren’t they happy? and appreciative? If these or similar thoughts are the ones running through your head, you’re definitely feeling frustrated.

The way we view conflict deeply influences how we handle conflict. Are you the kind of parent who hopes for a conflict free week with your kids or even a conflict free day? Yeah, I understand the dream. It feels nice when we have those easy free flowing days every three years or so, doesn’t it? But are you judging your days and your parenting and your kids by how many conflicts arise each day? Perhaps you’re thinking that if you’re parenting  the right way or a good way that you’re shouldn’t find yourself entrenched in reoccurring power struggles with your kids?

If you’re circling that belief system – that power struggles are bad, to be avoided and an indicator that you suck as a parent, I’d like to propose a radical idea to you.

Parent-Child Conflicts are Inevitable and Unavoidable

It’s okay that you and your child are having power struggles. It’s how you handle those conflicts that affects your future relationship with your child and your child’s ability to work through conflicts with others.

Power struggles are inevitable when we’re talking parent-child relationships. Our children are born totally dependent on us, but soon they learn to feed themselves, walk and communicate their needs. After the first year of life, children start the healthy long term task of becoming independent and breaking away from us. This is a perfect recipe for power struggles. We want to hold on to the control of our kid’s every move because we have tons more life experience than he or she does and we feel a positive parental need to protect our kids. Kids have a different view of the situation. A typical kid senses an innate drive to become independent, to explore the world, take healthy risks and learn lots of cool, fun things.

I’d actually be concerned if you told me that you and your child never have power struggles.

Parent-Child Conflicts are Opportunistic

I’m positive that you want your child to learn problem solving skills, cooperation skills and empathy. Power struggles offer opportunities for your child to learn all of these  – if we parents are open to that option. If you and your child never experienced power struggles, how would your child learn any of the skills I mentioned in the opening sentence of this paragraph. My guess is that conflicts with siblings and peers don’t offer as much of an opportunity for skill building as the ones kids have with you. Yes, solving conflicts with peers and siblings is important and definitely valuable, but you can give more, more, more because of your life experience.

This notion of viewing parent-child conflicts as teaching opportunities is another reason I don’t teach the tool of getting kids to obey their parents. Many of use were raised to be obedient, do what we were told and keep our mouths shut. If we were raised with this obedience model, we might also have grown up not knowing how to problem solve during a conflict or how to stand up for ourselves (meaning that “cooperation” meant that we always gave in to the other person’s wants.) If we weren’t given opportunities to problem solve, what did we learn about conflict resolution skills?

A power struggle is an opportunity to learn new skills, to learn about one another person’s point of view and to problem solve about solutions. Do you see the importance of conflict in raising capable kids? Can you view the situation as a teaching tool of life changing proportions?

Kelly Pfeiffer

Certified Positive Discipline Trainer

Think It Through Parenting

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