Power Battles between Parents and Children

The story of a young girl who explained why she fought with her Mom.

An 8-year-old girl, “Lillian”, and her Mom, “Gloria,” visited Parents Helping Parents to talk about the ongoing fights that they were having at home. The issues they fought about were often minor details but Gloria was concerned about the intensity and frequency of the arguments. I had suggested that Gloria try hard to stay calm when Lillian “pushed her buttons” over silly things but this had been hard to do.

As the three of us talked in my office Gloria and Lillian soon agreed that they wanted to stop fighting. Neither of them liked anything about these moments.

As Mom and I talked over the details of some particularly challenging times Lillian listened and played with some toys in the room. When I started explaining that I didn’t think that these fights were good for Lillian, she suddenly stopped what she was doing, walked over to my chair and looked at me with an open and intense expression on her face. “What did you say?” she said.

I repeated that I didn’t think that the fights were good for her, expressing my opinion in a supportive and kind tone.

“But I don’t know what else to do, I get so angry!!! ” she explained, making her point with vehement hand movements and an angry and upset expression on her face.

I reassured her that I understood that things in her life at home and at school were challenging but gently suggested that there might be some other ways to sort these things through with her Mom.

We continued to talk and eventually Lillian and Gloria agreed to come up with some alternatives that might help when emotions “spun out of both of their control.”

Gloria and Lillian were a close and connected mother and daughter; they had spent many wonderful moments together. All of this mutual care made it easier to find practical suggestions that appealed to both. They decided to talk more about the details of Lillian’s day before going to bed to prevent stress from building up over time. They made some funny cards to hand each other when tempers were beginning to flare. They also decided to keep coming up with other solutions that might help.

I believe that calm and supportive moments away from the points of inevitable family tension (alone or with a third party) can provide opportunities for parents and children to talk through difficulties and mutually brainstorm ideas that can help. Even the possibility that hard times can be acknowledged and discussed can put everyone in a much better mood.