Why Conflict Is Necessary

Although you had disagreements over discipline with your child, come his or her adolescence (around ages nine to 13), your child will find even more opportunities for conflict. Your teenager is willing to fight for more independence, the right to individuality, and the need for less parental restraint. These become recurrent issues you argue about. He now complains about how your disciplinary stands get in the way of his freedom to grow.

No matter how little household help you require, you will be told you are demanding too much. No matter how much oversight you let go, you will be told you are overprotective. No matter how much you try to listen, you will be told you don't understand. No matter how much you explain them, you will be told your rules don't make sense.

No matter how much you allow and provide, you will be told that friends are allowed and provided more. No matter how just you try to be, you will be told you are unfair. No matter how informed and up to date you try to be, you will be told that you are hopelessly out of touch with reality and behind the times. Come your child's adolescence, it often seems in his or her eyes that a “bad” parent is the best parent you can be.

Your willingness to constructively and respectfully engage in conflict over disciplinary issues for the sake of your teenager's best interests — against what he or she may want — is a major part of your parental responsibility during adolescence.

Conflict is the process of communication through which family members confront and resolve inevitable differences in wants, values, beliefs, perceptions, and goals that arise between them. Because adolescence is the time when your child begins to differentiate herself from the child she once was, from how you are as parents, and from how you want her to be, there are many more differences for parents to deal with during their daughter's teenage years.

Consider how the potential for conflict is built into family life. There may be conflict over cooperation: Who shares what? There may be conflict over control: Whose way shall prevail? There may be conflict over competition: Who gets most? There may be conflict over conformity: Who goes along with whom?

These kinds of conflicts give rise to common grievances from adolescents.

  • Cooperation: “Why do I need to help?”

  • Control: “Why can't I decide for myself?”

  • Competition: “Why don't we ever do what I want?”

  • Conformity: “Why do I have to do what the family does?”

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