Kids MD - Conflict with Kids

Karen Savage | CWK Network

"It's the first break with the parents' ideas, and they're trying to define themselves different from the parents – and that's a good thing."
- Dr. Gloria Meaux, psychologist -

Three-year-old Maddy is begging her mom for a cookie. "Let's eat our cheese first," says Fran Grice, mother of three girls. Maddy says emphatically, "No."

We've all heard it a thousand times. Kids tell us no. And the argument can be over anything. Maddy's mom says in her house "one of our big things is clothes."

Sure enough, in her bedroom, 6-year-old Emma complains, "Mommy, I don't want this shirt."

Psychologist Dr. Gloria Meaux says that all these complaints, all these no's, are completely normal. "Little kids have any kind of conflicts they want with the parents, ranging from 'I don't want to eat that to I don't want to wear those shoes and why do I have to go to school today?'" she says.

But, she says, there's a perfectly good reason for all this conflict. "It's the first break with the parents' ideas, and they're trying to define themselves different from the parents – and that's a good thing."

These are first early steps toward independence. Kids have to challenge their parents. And, she says, parents have to remember what's most important. "In 10 years nobody's going to remember what color shoes they wore that day or whether they had pancakes or waffles for breakfast, but your relationship with your child is really important," says Dr. Meaux.

She says pick your battles. Safety, for example, is not negotiable. Other things may not be so important.

And besides, says Grice, "I know that they'll live through this phase – I just don't fight it." She adds, "I'm not really ready for them to grow up and be separate from me, though, you know it's inevitable and that's my job is to teach them to leave me and be independent of me."

By Amye Walters
CWK Network, Inc.
Conflict between parents and children has been a fact of life for countless generations. It has occurred throughout time and in every family. Studies have shown that parents and their children are genetically related by 50 percent and genetically different by 50 percent. This means the two groups will not always see their ideal courses of action perfectly coincide.

Conflicts are predictable at each stage of life, not just during adolescence. Initial conflict between parents and children generally comes when the child should be weaned. The parents normally want to wean the child sooner, and the child wants to continue longer. In multi-child families, parents encourage children to value siblings more than the children are naturally inclined to value them. To achieve this end, parents often punish conflict between siblings and reward cooperation.

Conflict resolution at home actually lays the groundwork for tougher situations your child is certain to encounter in life, such as dating, drinking, drugs and smoking. Kids must learn that people who care about each other will sometimes disagree. In order to survive and succeed, they also must learn how to deal with the world.

In 1905, Freud wrote Three Essays on the Theory of Sexuality where he outlined his theory of the Oedipus complex. According to Freud, the Oedipus complex is a pivotal source of conflict between children and their same-sex parents. Freud used the Oedipus complex to explain the formation of the ego, the super-ego and the id – the traditional paradigm in the emergence of a child's psychological self.

Studies have shown the following:

Although stressful, conflict is beneficial for children.
Learning to manage conflict is essential for a child's development.
Conflicts during the preschool years occur because children desire even more attention than parents can or should give.

By Amye Walters
CWK Network, Inc.
If you understand why conflict occurs and the lessons it can impart, it can minimize the clashes between you and your children. Conflict is a child's attempt to develop a sense of self and how he or she learns to express needs and ideas. Parents nurture and drive this independence by exposing children to the outside world both formally and informally.

Conflict can stem from a difference of opinion or might just be a way to blow off steam. A child could be trying to reclaim some control when his or her environment (either at home or in school) feels too demanding. In rare instances, constant conflict between a parent and child can indicate a deeper emotional problem. Consult your pediatrician if this seems to be your situation.

It is important to offer your child choices, which should be determined by age and developmental level. The more responsible a child is, the more choices he or she gets in reward. You can threaten your child with punishment, but often offering a choice will better defuse angry situations. Consequences and rewards should have some meaning to your child.

Often a child's adverse behavior is ignited when he or she hears the word "no." Parents can avoid this by stating refusals and giving explanations to a child's requests. If you say "yes" and follow with the rule or conditions, you evade the harshness of the word "no." For example, saying "Yes, you can go outside, after you finish your homework" gives you an opportunity to remind your child of your rules. Your child can focus on a future "yes," rather than this moment's "no." Similarly, "never" and "always" are argument-escalating words. Avoid using them. Teach your child not to use escalating words. It might not eradicate conflict, but it will keep a discussion focused and limit emotional explosions. Also, keep the following in mind:

With repetition and consistency, conflict will lessen as kids learn to manage their expectations and emotions.
Pick and choose your battles with care, and avoid continuous conflict.
Teach children to recognize that emotions affect what we say during times of conflict.
Be firm in your instruction. Give power to what you say by not discussing it endlessly.
A threat of punishment is only as effective as the follow-through.
Success comes through reasonable negotiation, appropriate choices and a willingness to adhere to consequences and rewards.

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