Overcoming Parent-Child Conflict: 5 Easy Steps to Navigate

Psychology Diary Presents: Overcoming parent-child conflict

In the complex world of family dynamics, the delicate threads between parents and adult children sometimes fray, leading to the need of overcoming parent-child conflict that can strain even the strongest relationships. But don’t worry.

There’s always a pathway toward reconciliation and understanding regarding familial connections. Navigating these challenges can feel like traversing uncharted waters, but harmonious relationships can be restored with resilience, a mindful approach, and a dash of patience.

Today, Psychology Diary explores 5 practical strategies and thoughtful insights to foster positive communication and rebuild bridges strained by misunderstandings.

So, if you find yourself wrestling with friction in your parent-adult-child relationship, join us as we uncover valuable ways to heal, mend, and strengthen the familial ties that bind.

Let’s embark on this transformative voyage towards domestic harmony, where overcoming parent-child conflict echoes with growth and hope.

Overcoming Parent-Child Conflict
Photo by fizkes at Shutterstock

Are they behaving like irresponsible freeloaders?

Adult children often leave the nest between their late teens and late twenties. And some choose to behave like teenagers, staying at home for as long as possible. After all, why would they leave when their parent(s) will fully support them?

If you have an adult child who treats you like a maid and personal chef while contributing nothing to the household, it’s understandable why you’d get frustrated and look for methods on overcoming parent-child conflict.

Nobody likes to feel used, and if you’ve been taking care of your child for over 30 years, you might feel like you’ve had enough of this. In this situation, it’s essential to understand how you got here. It’s the whole nature VS nurture discussion. Is your child naturally a selfish user?

Or were they nurtured into being the way they are? Very often, behavior like this results from how the child was raised. So you might be dealing with consequences returning to haunt you. You may have had the best intentions of raising them, wanting to spare them so they could have a carefree life, but that doesn’t do anyone any favors in the long run.

To fix this issue, you must stop enabling your adult child. Sit them down and let them know that if they want to keep living with you, they’ll have to pull their weight. Make them pay for half the groceries and some of the rent and utilities. Specific chores should also be a requirement. You might get some pushback. Some may respond with anger, while others might cry and manipulate you.

When overcoming parent-child conflict, stand your ground and let them know this is the only option if they want to live with you. Be prepared for them to pack their things and leave, or they might turn passive-aggressive if they remain. You must be prepared to kick them out if they disobey your rules.

You might even need help to get your adult child to move out, like getting law enforcement involved or asking relatives to stand by you. Don’t allow yourself to be used. You might feel obligated to keep caring for them because you gave birth to them.

But even though they’re your child, they’re adults now. If you think your relationship with them can be salvageable, and there are some traits about them that you do like or respect, then you can suggest family therapy with them.

Working with a good counselor who can help you work through your problems and learn to respect what each other is feeling might help heal the wounds so you can move forward.

Do you feel alienated because they “never tell you anything?”

The first step to overcoming parent-child conflict is to ask yourself why this is and what factors may contribute to this behavior. Many parents want to be their child’s “best friend” and end up overstepping boundaries that should be maintained.

For instance, you might wish for your adult child to spill the tea about their love life, but they might be uncomfortable discussing that with you. Similarly, you might overshare details about your life that they never want to even think about, let alone envision.

The best way to bridge the gap is to talk to your adult children and get to know them as the individuals they are. You might assume that you understand their interests and preferences because of what they liked 30 years ago. But that doesn’t mean they’re still interested.

If you keep assuming your grownup child is the same person they were at age 13, there’ll be a lot of conflict. Treat your mature child as though they were a stranger whom you’re interested in getting to know better. Ask the kinds of questions you’d like to be asked, including the types of music they like and what they do in their spare time.

If they seem skeptical and ask why you’re asking so many questions suddenly, tell them the truth. Explain that you’re trying to get to know them better as adults. And most importantly, if and when your child opens up to you about their life, try to refrain from commenting about what they were like growing up, especially in terms of definite statements.

For instance, let’s say you ask your child what food they like most right now, and they tell you that they’ve been constantly craving sushi. Your knee-jerk reaction might be to say, “But you’ve always HATED fish!”

When you say something like this, you’re telling them about who they are based on your perceptions rather than listening to what they’re saying. They might have hated fish at age five, but that doesn’t mean they still do.

Preferences change considerably over a person’s lifetime, and what’s hated in childhood might be loved in adulthood and vice-versa. Remember that when overcoming parent-child conflict.

Overcoming Parent-Child Conflict
Photo by fizkes at Shutterstock

Have you been feeling disappointed in them overall?

Often, people begin to dislike children who don’t meet their expectations in some sort of way. This happens fairly often if the child is non-gender-conforming or neurodivergent and won’t be able to fulfill the hopes and dreams their parents had for them.

On the other hand, your adult child might have made life choices you find horrible. They might have even squandered the opportunities you’ve tried to set up for them and began venture after venture that has failed miserably.

This may even embarrass you and make you change the subject when people you know ask questions about what your child is doing with their life.

Ask yourself a few questions when overcoming parent-child conflict to determine whether you want to have them in your life anymore: Do you still want to have a relationship with them? If this person weren’t your child, would you like them? Do they have any traits you respect?

If you keep trying to form your adult child into a version of themselves that you like better, you’ll both be left feeling miserable. You’ll be constantly setting them up to fail in your eyes, and they’ll feel rejected by you at all times.

Can you accept that they’ll never share your skills or interests and try to appreciate the ones they do have? If so, try to find some common ground. You might have dreamed that your child would be a lawyer, but maybe they’ve inherited your love of sewing instead.

While they might not be the person you hoped they would be, you may find that you have more in common than you realized. You might recognize that one of the reasons you dislike them is that you’ve been trying to live vicariously through them.

If they disappoint you because of the inability to meet the same milestones you did, then you’ll need to gain a greater perspective of what’s going on. You might have hit those milestones because those were goals you wanted, but that doesn’t mean they share the same goals.

Alternatively, consider that the world is very different now than when you were a youngster. The older generation could stay in the same job for decades and then get a complete retirement package. But things change.

When in the midst of overcoming parent-child conflict, try to be more open to learning about their struggles rather than assuming you know all the facts about what’s happening around them.

Something easy for you to do at their age could be significantly more challenging for them due to circumstances they have no control over.

They’re not appreciative of you

Recognition is everything. And that applies to parenting and overcoming parent-child conflict, as well. If you don’t like your ungrateful adult child because they’re bitter toward you instead of appreciating everything you did and are still doing for them, figure out why they feel the way they do. Analyze their behavior toward you.

People often ignore information they don’t want to hear, especially parents who still see their adult offspring as kids. Maybe your kids told you that you were distant and mean toward them when they were younger, and you dismissed it as ridiculous or overdramatic.

Or they’ve said to you that they’re dealing with trauma resulting from being hit or overly punished when you were trying to discipline them and teach them respect. From your perspective, they don’t appreciate how much you’ve sacrificed for them, how you had to scrimp and save to pay for everything.

But from their perspective, you might not have allowed them to have a real childhood. If they had tried to explain any of this to you, would you have listened? When children’s preferences and needs aren’t met, when instead they have their entire lives dictated, they feel completely disempowered.

They don’t have control over their lives and can develop mistrust and resentment. Those emotions don’t simply go away. They’re repressed until the person can escape their perceived oppressor.

Now that they’ve grown and have control over their own lives, they could be lashing out and punishing you for what they experienced when they were younger, if they talk to you at all. From your point of view, you were a devoted parent who only wanted the best for your child, and now you don’t like the person they’ve become.

But to them, you were a control freak who made their little life hell, and now they’re trying to hurt you the way they felt you pulled them. You can fix this by talking with them, explaining your point of view, and asking them how they think about things from their perspective.

If discussing this verbally without raised voices is difficult, communicate via email or text. Getting everything out in the open so you can explain your perspective without interruption can be healing.

Overcoming Parent-Child Conflict
Photo by fizkes at Shutterstock

They don’t respect you?

You might not like your adult child because they never listen to you, whether you’re advising them on a situation or telling them what to do. Before all else when overcoming parent-child conflict, ask yourself if you’re being overbearing and if it’s causing your child to respond in kind.

Do you show them courtesy and respect? Or do you demand it from them and then infantilize them? The key thing to remember is that your child is an adult. So, the dynamic you had when they were 10 years old isn’t the same anymore.

You’re not in a position anymore where you can tell them what to do and expect to be obeyed blindly. Boundaries must be respected. Don’t overstep them or try to establish dominance and then get mad when they insist on upholding them.

Maybe you think that you don’t need to respect them because they’re your child. You may discover that you’ve been intentionally overstepping because you don’t like the idea of not being in control.

You can apologize and let them know you will do your best to respect their wishes. When we own our mistakes and take action to fix them, that shows the other person that we care.

If, instead, you find that you’re absolutely in the right and they’re being disrespectful to you without any cause, then call them out on this behavior.

Rather than pulling the “I’m your parent, so you need to listen to me!” card, ask if they would behave this way toward their employer, doctor, or even a stranger. If they wouldn’t speak like that to anyone else, it’s unacceptable for them to talk to you that way.

They might respond with rudeness, so taking some space from them can be a good idea. Limit contact with them, maintaining a “gray rock” response if and when they call you.

Simply be civil yet not warm, and don’t offer to do anything for them until they apologize and take action to change things for the better.

They might be experiencing personal difficulties and lashing out at the one person in their life they feel “safe” with because they know you love them unconditionally.

But you can still love someone from a distance while making it clear that you won’t accept poor behavior. You’re their parent, not their emotional punching bag.

Need an outlet to get your feelings out when times get tough? Journaling might be the perfect release for you. Here’s our favorite from Amazon!

We hope this article on overcoming parent-child conflict has been an eye-opener for you. Be sure to share your thoughts with Psychology Diary in the comments section below.

And if you like this post, be sure to also check out: 10 Codependency Signs and the Smart Ways to Overcome It




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