Managing Conflict With Your Preteen
By The Psychology Foundation of Canada
Many important changes occur in children between the ages of 10 and 12 years. Conflict between parents and children often starts to increase during these years—and even more in the teenage years—so it is important to work on solutions for managing conflict early on.
Finding good conflict-management strategies will help make your lives calmer and your relationship stronger, and teach your child to handle conflict with others. Remember: A certain amount of parent–child conflict is completely normal and is one of the ways your child practices being more independent.
You may have more conflict with one child than another. Every situation and personality is different so, as you try some of the suggestions below, keep your individual child’s personality in mind and remind yourself that there are some things you just can’t control.
How you can help—and stay connected
• Stay calm. Try to deal with conflict in a quiet and calm way, even though you may be frustrated and tired. It’s hard to do this all the time, but shouting at your children makes it difficult for them to listen to what you have to say and can make the conflict worse, since they may see you as being unreasonable.
• Listen to your child. Ask your children about situations that are causing trouble and let them talk to you about them. If you demand obedience without hearing what your children have to say, it can create hard feelings and your children might start hiding their activities from you. When you have a better understanding of how your children feel, you might decide to be more flexible with the rules or change them to reduce conflict in the future.
• Be respectful. In any conflict situation, if you want your child to treat others—including you— with respect, show respect for your child as well. Focus on the facts of the situation. Try not to shame or criticize your child, which can make conflict worse. Even if your child shouts at you, try to remain calm.
• Focus on the important issues. Remember that some conflicts may not be worth arguing about. Try to reduce conflict with your child by concentrating on the most important disagreements and letting others go. For example, a situation where your child’s safety or health is in danger is much more important than whether your child completes his or her homework by a certain time of day. If children see that you can compromise, they are much more likely to listen to what you have to say when you need them to.
• Continue to have clear standards for your child’s behaviour. Your children still need you to establish clear and consistent rules for what they are and aren’t allowed to do. Rules at home are important for teaching, but they also allow your children to feel safe and supported at a time when many things in their lives are changing. When your child feels safe with you leading the way, your relationship naturally becomes stronger over time.
• Walk away from the conversation if you need to. Don’t be afraid to stop the conversation and walk away if a discussion becomes too heated. You might say something like, “I won’t talk to you when you use that tone of voice. We can continue this conversation when you can be more respectful.” This is a good strategy to prevent people from saying things they may later regret.
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Building a stronger relationship
When you have a good connection with your children, they will feel understood and supported, and be more likely to respect you and follow your family culture.
1.Look for ways to connect and communicate. Regularly find ways to connect with your children. For example, eat meals together as often as you can, have conversations in the car while driving back and forth, and attend your children’s sports or dance competitions. The more you can positively connect with your children through their daily routines, the stronger your relationship will become.
2.Talk to your children about their interests. Parents spend a lot of time talking to their children about rules, regulations and what they want their children to think and do. It is important to make a real effort to have conversations about your child’s ideas and interests as well. Listen, listen, listen. When you ask your children about their ideas, they really appreciate it, and you will better understand how they are growing and changing.
3.Set a good example with your own behaviour. Remember that your children pay very close attention to everything you do and say. If you demand respect from them and don’t respect them in return, you can damage your relationship. They think, “Why should I listen to my parents if they don’t even do what they say is right?” So, model the behaviour that you wish to see in your children—respect them, praise them when they do something well, try not to be overly critical and apologize when you’ve made a mistake—and you will be building a strong foundation for a good relationship.
4. Have fun! This stage of growing up can be a time when you and your child feel anxious about the near future. Don’t forget to have fun together, laugh together and enjoy each other’s company. Plan things you both like to do together (e.g., cooking, going for a walk, playing sports, watching a television program, visiting a museum, shopping, listening to music or having a movie night).