It’s never nice to experience conflict. When it comes to our kids, there are many reasons for us to feel frustrated… leaving the towel on the floor, the dishes in the sink, attitude and rolling eyes – the list goes on.
While we all strive to have amazing relationships with our children, it’s important that we have some battles as well. Children naturally grow and become independent, and it’ their right and responsibility to eventually separate from us and become adults. These tendencies start in childhood… and it’s our job to facilitate their autonomy and support their desire to be their own person.
Children need us to model how to handle when relationships hit the rocks – whether it’s with friends, family, partners or YOU. Importantly, they need to know that healthy relationships can experience conflict but remain strong and loving.
While some parents may thrive on saying to others ‘my child is my best friend’, it may be worthwhile asking whether that’s the ideal role of a parent. Some children may feel obligation to ‘look after’ their parent instead of hanging out with their friends, while also holding back on conversations and experiences that need to be objectively handled. For example, understanding natural consequences to their actions. We as parents may tell our children over and over again that smoking is bad for you, but it’s often the act of experiencing smoking that puts a teenager off as they discover it’s very expensive and burns your throat!
Learning to handle conflict is a life lesson and builds resilience. If we retaliate to our children’s shortfalls with yelling and swearing, then they will replicate. They will also start to cut us out of their reflective conversations which can have dire consequences. Listening objectively to a child’s point of view is imperative to gain their trust and encourage them to keep us in the loop for the future. You may not like it… and you don’t have to! But, the more reactive you are the less you’ll be kept in that loop.
Addressing conflict with your child gives us the opportunity to show them healthy habits in relationships. Acknowledge and talk about your own feelings, without casting blame or pointing the finger. Talk about ‘mistakes’ as something that is fixable and an opportunity to redeem the situation – nothing is unforgivable when it comes to the love of a parent.
From the moment our children are conceived they develop as an individual. We may carry them for 9 months and care for them for a lifetime, but at the end of the day – they are their own person with feelings and thoughts separate to ours.
Accepting and even encouraging your child’s differences to your own is so important in building your relationship. If you expect your child to be something they are not, not only will they constantly disappoint you, but they will feel this disappointment. For a child to feel like a failure in their parents’ eyes is damaging to self-esteem and will impact on their other relationships going forward – now that’s heavy!
It’s imperative that we allow our kids to make choices and have control over their lives to some extent. Whether this is choice over the clothes they wear or the food they eat (within reason!), this is going to make a child feel successful and confident in their own skin. Our opinion of ourselves is the most impacting opinion of all!
So, we don’t need to be our child’s best friend. We don’t need to agree with everything they say, think and do. But we do need to recognize their differences and be a listening ear when they need one. We do need to model rational problem solving, without blame or nastiness. We do need to remember that we are the adult that they are learning to be.