For a parent it can feel frustrating when the argument with their child doesn’t resolve but rather escalates. Often times such escalation can have a negative impact on the parent child relationship. To help understand common mistakes parents make when they are in conflict with their child and how a parent can defuse an argument with their child, I have interviewed licensed marriage and family therapist Anglea Pruess.
Tell me a little bit about yourself.
“I received my bachelor’s degree in Child Psychology from the University of Minnesota, and went on to receive a Master’s Degree and License in Marriage and Family Therapy. I have spent the beginning of my career working at a non-profit agency in Minneapolis, with children and families experiencing emotional and behavioral concerns. I specialize in play therapy and have also been trained in an up and coming modality of therapy called Parent Child Interaction Therapy. I’ve recently moved back to Wisconsin and am currently practicing at a clinic in Menomenee Falls, Clinical Psychology Associates. I am accepting new clients including children, adolescents and families in need of parenting support.”
What are common mistakes parents when they are in conflict with their child?
“I believe the most common mistake parents make, is letting their emotions escalate along with their child’s. This is easy to do, but quickly gives away your power to the child. This is an exact formula for an argument to escalate. Another simple concept, which often gets forgotten, is actually listening to your child. So often we are caught up in our own agenda, and that we are in the right by virtue of being the parent that we neglect to honestly listen. Many times, to be heard, is all the child wants. Demonstrating some empathy, and really listening will “soften” the child to what your trying to communicate and why you believe it’s in their best interest.”
What are some things that parents can do to defuse an argument with their child?
“1. Lead the tone of the argument, which includes maintaining a calm demeanor and tone of voice. Be a role model for your child, and show them how to interact with others respectfully. 2. Ignore. If they are engaging in attention seeking behaviors such as verbal or physical aggression, do not allow yourself to give them the reaction they are seeking. Many times it is ok to ignore inappropriate behaviors, although it may get worse initially, they almost always back down eventually. 3. Take a break. State to your child that you feel really frustrated, mad and that both of you could use some time to cool off. 4. Use humor. Saying something funny or unexpected may distract them from the tension for moment and lighten up the situation. Examples of this are singing, using a silly voice or facial expression.”
What can a parent do if the issues between them and their child are too many and they have a difficult time in defusing the argument?
“There are inherently a lot of issues to resolve in a parent-child relationship. The society we live in today does not help matters. There are many variables children and parents deal with today, that weren’t present even ten years ago. It is expected that at times these issues would become overwhelming, and lead a parent to feel helpless. Getting outside help from a professional can be extremely helpful in acquiring new tools and strategies for communication. There are a variety of different therapists out there many that specialize in dealing with parenting issues. A good therapist will always recognize that you are an expert when in comes to your child, and help build on the strengths you currently demonstrate. Admitting you need a little support and seeking it out, can be very empowering and will increase your confidence in dealing with family conflict all around.”
Thank you Angela for doing the interview on how a parent can defuse an argument with their child. For more information on Angela Pruess or her work you can check out her website on http://clinical-psychology-associates.com/angela-.htm.
How to Manage Your Anger with Your Child
How to Help a Child Prevent and Reduce Their Anger
How to Listen to Your Child