Home page Psychology blog Child and Adolescent Behavior Moral Values When your relationship with a child becomes a nightmare

When your relationship with a child becomes a nightmare

05.04.2019 Author: Psychologist Pavel Khoroshutin

“Cannot believe I’m saying it, but my child drives me mad. He is 10, just a normal boy, but sometimes he does things that make me think he has a grasshopper mind. Our whole house is covered with instructions and regulations, I removed his privileges and even tried bribing him. It used to work for a little while, but then he became obnoxious once again…” [1]

This example, which is definitely familiar to some, is taken from a book by Michele Borba, a psychologist and a teacher. She explains the features of the conflicts between parents and children this way: behavior problems are not just child’s problems, they are family problems. In order to properly help them and yourself, you should detach yourself from the situation and ask yourself: “What can affect my child’s behavior?”

Of course, age peculiarities and childhood crises inevitably cause conflicts between parents and children. A lot of things can affect this, from childish tantrums and stubbornness at young age to aggression and absolute lack of understanding in adolescence. However, blaming child’s problems means ignoring your role in raising and bringing up your child. The conflict between parents and their children is a problematic mode of behavior fostered by both sides of it. The question is, how do we solve this problem without any casualties?


  1. Causes of conflicts between parents and children
  2. Escaping the vicious circle of conflicts

Causes of conflicts between parents and children

how to teach a child responsibility

Many parents are convinced that proper upbringing prevents any form of conflict. However, even though they try their best, they still encounter this problematic behavior.

Psychologists and educators have a saying: the children who need support more than others cannot get it, because they always cause trouble to others. [2]

Parents might not even notice how vehemently they react to any trouble their child might have in interacting with their peers, to problems in school and to breaking formal rules. Meanwhile, it leads only to mutual resentment and loss of trust. A child doesn’t care that a parent expresses their love and concern that way. As the result, the poor parent feels hurt and powerless, lashes out and either tries to push even further or leaves things to chance. This makes the whole situation only worse. Let’s try to figure out, what actually interferes with fixing family relationship.

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The following behavior peculiarities are the causes for conflicts between parents and their children: [3] [5]

  • ignorance or neglect towards age peculiarities, special needs and requirements for child’s development;
  • intolerance towards personality features;
  • inability to express one’s feelings;
  • belittling child’s strong points, lack of faith in their success;
  • mutually exclusive demands from different members of the family;
  • constant directives and orders instead of explanations and kind requests;
  • constant blaming for incorrect behavior, attention to committed mistakes;
  • prohibition of mistakes, creating and maintaining the image of impeccability for mother and father;
  • comparing children with their peers (in terms of success) or with parents in their youth;
  • spending little or no time together;
  • unreasonably exaggerated requirement for self-control (control over behavior and thought processes) which do not match the age of the child.

3 most common causes

Let’s look at the most common causes for conflicts:

1. Neglect of age peculiarities and requirements for child’s development

Lack of knowledge about child’s development stages often manifests itself through inability to consider psychological changes and to modify personal behavior in accordance with them.

For example, parents treat their child following the pattern of their previous stage (which can often lead to conflicts between parents and grown-up children), or, on the contrary, treat their child as a “small adult”. Another problem often appears in early infancy and preschool age, when children cannot yet complete a task quickly due to their slow reaction, weak perception, inactivity of temporal nervous connections in cerebral cortex, while adults treat it as disobedience. [4]

Critical periods also affect relationship and cause conflicts between children and parents: [6]

  1. Neonatal crisis—a transitional period between pre-natal and post-natal lifestyle. A child is most helpless, it has no established behavior patterns.
  2. One-year crisis. First bursts of independence, strong reaction to the word “no”, lack of understanding of child’s gestures and body language by its parents, neglect of child’s desires.
  3. Three-year crisis or crisis “Let me”. This stage is characterized by stubbornness, negativism, capriciousness, denial (if you say “yes”, the child will say “no”), devaluation of parents’ authority.
  4. Seven-year crisis is characterized by loss of spontaneity, imitation of peers, instability of will and mood, secretiveness.
  5. Teenage crisis at age 12-14. While the body starts growing rampantly, relationships with others also change. A child makes inflated demands on the adults and on themselves. They wish to stand equal to grown-ups and protests against being treated like a small child. They adopt a rude demeanor, run counter to adults, ignore the rules and reprimanding, or can shut themselves off from the world.
  6. Seventeen-year crisis. At this age children are stressed about final exams, entrance exams, need to pick their major, possible relocation and change of social circle. They fear making a mistake, making a wrong choice, they doubt their skills and abilities.

As children grow, they develop new skills, abilities, undergo mental and physical changes. This process is natural and perfectly normal. It is quite important to understand the changes in your child’s behavior, rather than suppressing them.

2. Intolerance towards personality features

Lack of tolerance towards child’s personality features is another common cause for conflicts between children and their parents. For example, an energetic and emotional mother can get irritated with her composed and phlegmatic son, seeing him as passive and slow. She wants to have active leisure all the time and wishes the same for her son, forcing him into camping or sports, while he would prefer reading books, watching cartoons and drawing in his free time.

By adopting such reaction, a parent demonstrates that they do not accept their child at all. This can lead to lower self-esteem and negative attitude towards imposed activities.

3. Inability to express one’s feelings.

Mistaken view of the family and concept of expressing own feelings is another behavior pattern that can cause arguments.

If the parents cannot talk about their feelings, they either hide “bad” emotions or blame the child instead of praising them for their success, displaying care and supporting them in difficult situations. As the result, a child adopts this behavior pattern as the only one possible.

Mutually exclusive demands from the parents can make the situation worse. If a father tells one thing and the mother tells the opposite, a child can get confused and disconcerted.

Those were the most common causes for conflicts between children and their parents. The only thing that remains is finding out the ways to solve the problem.

Escaping the vicious circle of conflicts

how to develop a sense of responsibility in a child

You might now feel the desire to “remake” yourself or your child after realizing the problem. However, this is simply unrealistic.

First, you need to exclude deeper causes for problem, which require another solution. For example, if your child has development disorders, neurological conditions, mental disorders or serious psychological condition (childhood depression), they need medical help from neurologist or therapist. Meanwhile, the child’s family requires psychological support in order to understand what their child is going through and how they should build their relationship.

However, if the causes for constant conflicts are not related to your child’s physical state, the only thing to do in order to solve the problem is to change your behavior and transition from confrontation to cooperation. First, you will have to review the mindset that prevents you from bringing peace to your family.

A lot of us grew up around the mindset of “I’m older, I know what’s the best “, “decide for yourself only after you grow up”, “I am your parent, I have a right to yell and punish my child “. Such mindset grows deep into subconsciousness and activates in critical situations.

7Spsy behavior modification technique is particularly effective in working with negative modes of behavior which established based on such negative mindset. There are always two sides of a problem. One of the ways to solve the conflict between children and parents is to change your mode of behavior and your habit of reacting vehemently to stressful situations.

We will teach you how to negotiate and reach a compromise

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7Spsy behavior modification course features psychological testing that will help you define the problem. After 2-6 weeks of individual work you will establish new and positive mindset, root it into your subconsciousness and adopt new mode of behavior. As the result, you will become able to improve your relationship with your child, solve the problems peacefully and discuss them as equals.


  1. Net plohomu povedeniyu. 38 modelej problemnogo povedeniya rebenka i kak s nimi borotsya.— Michele Borba.
  2. Profilaktika lichnostnyh rasstrojstv u detej doshkolnogo vozrasta. — S. V. Krivcova, N. V. Dyatko.
  3. Pedagogicheskaya konfliktologiya — I. A. Kurochkina, O. N.SHahmatova. Uchebnoe posobie. Ekaterinburg. RGPPU. 2013.
  4. Vy i vashi deti — V.M. Celujko.
  5. Dobrozhelatelnye vzglyady na obshchenie s detmi. 21 situaciya iz praktiki detskogo psihiatra i psihoterapevta — S. Y. Benilova. Moskva. 2016.
  6. Vygotskij L.S. Sobranie sochinenij. T.4. Detskaya psihologiya. – M.: Pedagogika, 1984. – 432 s.