When your relationship with a child becomes a nightmare

Apr 05, 2019

“I cannot believe I’m saying it, but my child drives me mad. He is 10, just a normal boy, but sometimes he does things that make me think he has a grasshopper mind. Our whole house is covered with instructions and regulations, I removed his privileges and even tried bribing him. It used to work for a little while, but then he became obnoxious once again…” [1]

This example, which is definitely familiar to some, is taken from a book by Michele Borba, a psychologist and a teacher. She explains the features of the conflicts between parents and children this way: behavior problems are not just the child’s problems they are family problems. In order to properly help them and yourself, you should detach yourself from the situation and ask yourself: “What can affect my child’s behavior?

Of course, age-related issues and childhood crises inevitably cause conflicts between parents and children. A lot of things can affect this, from tantrums and stubbornness at a young age to aggression and an absolute lack of understanding in adolescence. However, blaming the problems on the child  means ignoring your role in raising and bringing up your child. The conflict between parents and their children is a problematic mode of behavior fostered by both sides. The question is, how do we solve this problem without any casualties?

Causes of conflicts between parents and children

Many parents are convinced that a proper upbringing prevents any form of conflict. However, even though they try their best, they still encounter instances of problematic behavior.

Psychologists and educators have a saying: the children who need support more than others cannot get it, because they always cause trouble. [2]

Parents might not even notice how vehemently they react to problems their child might have in interacting with their peers, to difficulties in school and to breaking formal rules. Meanwhile, this leads to mutual resentment and loss of trust. A child doesn’t care that a parent expresses their love and concern that way. As a result, the poor parent feels hurt and powerless and lashes out. He/she either tries to push even further or leaves things to chance. This makes the whole situation worse. Let’s try to figure out what actually interferes with fixing family relationships.

The following behavior peculiarities are the causes of conflicts between parents and their children: [3] [5]

  • ignorance or neglect towards age peculiarities, special needs and requirements for the child’s development;
  • intolerance towards personality features;
  • inability to express one’s feelings;
  • belittling the child’s strong points, showing lack of faith in their success;
  • mutually exclusive demands from different members of the family;
  • constant directives and orders instead of explanations and kind requests;
  • constant blaming for incorrect behavior and attention to mistakes;
  • prohibition of mistakes, creating and maintaining the image of impeccability for mother and father;
  • comparing children with their peers (in terms of success) or with parents in their youth;
  • spending little or no time together;
  • unreasonably exaggerated requirements for self-control (control over behavior and thought processes) which do not match the age of the child.

3 most common causes

Let’s look at the most common causes for conflicts:

  1. Neglect of age peculiarities and requirements for child’s development

A lack of knowledge about the child’s developmental stages often manifests itself through an inability to consider psychological changes and to modify personal behavior in accordance with them.

For example, parents treat their child following the pattern of their previous stage (which can often lead to conflicts between parents and grown-up children), or, on the contrary, treat their child as a “small adult”. Another problem that often appears in early infancy and preschool age, is when children cannot yet complete a task quickly due to their slow reactions, weak perceptions or an inactivity of temporal nervous connections in the cerebral cortex. Here adults may treat this as disobedience. [4]

Critical periods also affect relationships and cause conflicts between children and parents: [6]

  1. Neonatal crisis—a transitional period between a pre-natal and post-natal lifestyle. A child is at its most helpless, it has no established behavior patterns.
  2. One-year crisis. These are the first bursts of independence. There may be a strong reaction to the word “no”, a lack of understanding of a child’s gestures and body language by its parents and neglect of the child’s desires.
  3. Three-year crisis or crisis “Let me”. This stage is characterized by stubbornness, negativism, capriciousness, denial (if you say “yes”, the child will say “no”) and devaluation of parents’ authority.
  4. Seven-year crisis. This is characterized by a loss of spontaneity, imitation of peers, instability of will and mood and secretiveness.
  5. Teenage crisis at age 12-14. This is when the body starts growing rampantly and relationships with others also change. A child makes inflated demands on adults and on themselves. They wish to stand equal to grown-ups and protest against being treated like a small child. They adopt a rude demeanor, run counter to adults, ignore the rules and reprimands and may even shut themselves off from the world.
  6. Seventeen-year crisis. At this age children are stressed about final exams and entrance tests. They need to pick their major, possibly relocate and change their social circle. They fear making a mistake or a wrong choice and doubt their skills and abilities.

As children grow, they develop new skills and abilities and undergo mental and physical changes. This process is natural and perfectly normal. It is quite important to understand the changes in your child’s behavior, rather than suppressing them.

  1. Intolerance towards personality features

A lack of tolerance towards a child’s personality features is another common cause for conflicts between children and their parents. For example, an energetic and emotional mother can get irritated with her composed and phlegmatic son, seeing him as passive and slow. She wants to have active leisure all the time and wishes the same for her son, forcing him into camping or sports, while he would prefer reading books, watching cartoons and drawing.

By adopting such a reaction, a parent demonstrates that they do not accept their child at all. This can lead to lower self-esteem and a negative attitude towards imposed activities.

  1. Inability to express one’s feelings.

A mistaken view of the family and the concept of expressing one’s own feelings is another behavior pattern that can cause arguments.

If the parents cannot talk about their feelings, they either hide “bad” emotions or blame the child instead of praising them for their success and displaying care and support in difficult situations. As a result, a child adopts this behavior pattern as the only one possible.

Mutually exclusive demands from each parent can make the situation worse. If a father says one thing and the mother the opposite, a child can get confused and disconcerted.

These then are the most common causes of conflicts between children and their parents. The only thing that remains is finding out ways to solve the problems.

Escaping the vicious circle of conflicts

  1. You might now feel the desire to “remake” yourself or your child after realizing the problem. However, this is simply unrealistic.

    First, you need to exclude deeper causes, which require another solution. For example, if your child has a development disorder, a neurological condition, a mental disorder or a serious psychological condition (childhood depression), they will need medical help from a neurologist or therapist. Meanwhile, the child’s family will require psychological support in order to understand what their child is going through and how they should build their relationship.

    However, if the causes for constant conflicts are not related to your child’s physical state, the only thing to do in order to solve the problem is to change your behavior and transition from confrontation to cooperation. First, you will have to review the mindset that prevents you from bringing peace to your family.

    A lot of us grew up around the mindset of “I’m older, I know what’s best “, “decide for yourself only after you grow up”, “I am your parent, I have a right to yell and punish you “. Such a mindset grows deep into the subconsciousness and activates in critical situations.

    The 7Spsy behavior modification technique is particularly effective in working with negative modes of behavior which have become established based on a negative mindset. There are always two sides to a problem. One of the ways to solve the conflict between children and parents is to change your mode of behavior and your habit of reacting vehemently to stressful situations.

    The 7Spsy behavior modification course features psychological testing that will help you define the problem. After 2-6 weeks of individual work you will establish a new and positive mindset, root it into your subconsciousness and adopt a new mode of behavior. As a result, you will become able to improve your relationship with your child, solve the problems peacefully and discuss issues with them as equals.


How to negotiate and compromise

Information from this website cannot be used for self-therapy and self-diagnostics. 

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