Who Should Win the Battle: Parent or Child?
It is inevitable. I’m sorry to say it, but it’s true. No matter how wonderful your parenting skills, the time will come when you and your child have a disagreement. You will expect your child to complete a chore and they will not want to. You will want them home by curfew and they will want to stay out later. You will want them to smile and have fun; they will be miserable and cold. It’s going to happen…no doubt about it! The important factor at this moment of conflict becomes how you resolve the conflict. In fact, allowing a child to experience conflict and learn how to cope with it allows them to learn and grow. After all, they will experience conflict throughout life. Where better to learn the best way to resolve conflict than at home with someone who loves them? Unfortunately, many parents see this moment of conflict as an “either-or” scenario—either the parent must win or the child wins. Conflict becomes a win-lose scenario. Consider the outcome of these two extremes.
If the parent must win then the parent must announce the solution. The child’s input does not matter. The parent knows best; the parent determines the solution; and, the parent tells the child what to do. The child does not have to like it; he just has to do it! If the child does not like the solution, the parent will try to persuade them to do it. If that does not work, the parent simply asserts their power and authority to tell the child to do it. Unfortunately, the parent only has so much power. The child, who often lacks the motivation to actually invest in his parent’s solution, dooms it to failure. If he undermines the solution, the parent has to nag and persuade. And, the parent will find it difficult to enforce the decision in light of the child’s sabotaging efforts. Or, the child may simply comply out of fear of punishment and never internalizes the seed of true self-discipline. Perhaps most detrimental, the relationship is undermined and resentment begins to replace love and affection.
If the parent lets the child win they have given up any authority they might have. The child begins to lose respect for authority in general and just “does what he wants.” Young children learn to throw tantrums to get what they want, overpowering their parent’s will and energy with the intense emotion of the tantrum. As they grow older, they learn to use yelling, pouting, crying, or accusing to get their way…just like they did with tantrums as a child. A child in a permissive household may also learn to use guilt to persuade his parents to give in. Unfortunately, this child does not develop internal controls. He can become self-centered, selfish, and demanding. He will likely experience difficult peer relationships because he believes his needs are more important than the needs of others. At the same time, this child will often feel insecure about his parents love. Parents will find this child unmanageable and impulsive. They might become resentful, irritated, and angry toward the child. And, once again, the relationship is compromised.
So, if the parent winning does not work and the child winning does not work, what can a parent do? Good question. The answer requires a different paradigm of conflict resolution, power, and parenting, a paradigm different than the win-lose paradigm so often exalted in our society…but, I fear I have run out of time. So, I will explore a different paradigm in my next blog. Stay tuned to the “same bat station, same bat time”…well, you know what I mean. See you next week.