Parent Counseling: Parent-Child Conflict: Win-Win

By: Jessica Anderson

Updated October 29, 2020

Medically Reviewed By: Ema Jones, LCSW

Parents and their children will experience conflict, and it's both healthy and normal in many circumstances. However, if the conflict you have with your child is causing stress and other negative emotions, it may be time to consider professional help. It is challenging to experience parent-child conflict, but it can easily be resolved through parent counseling.

Parenting Is Difficult At Every Age
Learn How Parent-Child Counseling Can Help You Navigate Parenting Today.


Why Is Parent Counseling Beneficial To Both Parents and Children?

Parent counseling is beneficial because it provides you with an outside view of what is going on within the walls of your home. It provides your family with a non-biased, third-party professional, who is trained to improve the relationship you experience with your child. They can look into your parenting styles and compare it with the level of your child's developmental behavior. They can provide insight to improve the relationship based on what they find.

What To Expect From Parent Counseling

Parent counseling can be a strong tool when you find yourself facing significant conflict in the relationship you have with your child. It can help your counseling experience if you know what to expect when you go in. We will discuss what you can expect from parent counseling below.

Parenting Styles

Most parents recognize that their child has a will of his or her own around the time the child begins to learn verbal and non-verbal communication skills. What the parents may not realize is that the source of conflict does not necessarily arise when a child first communicates opposition to a parental command or a rule. On the contrary, it may arise out of how the parent addresses the child's opposition. We will look into these various parenting styles and how they affect the conflict below.

One style of parenting is called Authoritarian. These parents typically feel they have the final say, and that "no means no." Authoritarian style parents often have difficulty adjusting their composure when their child is having a bad day experiencing a developmental milestone that brings defiance.

Another parenting style is Authoritative. These parents are more democratic in their disciplinary approach. They recognize the value of balancing their relationship with the child, viewing their child with unconditional positive regard. They demonstrate empathy, acceptance, and understanding. They often view discipline as a teaching opportunity.

Aside from these two parenting styles, parents vary in style across the world, as well. Children from different countries grow up under different parental expectations. If these children are brought into American culture, more conflict can arise as they realize they are treated differently at home when compared to their peers.

Family dynamics can also affect parenting style. Single parents may find themselves feeling incredibly isolated when they are at odds with a child. Although this is normal, it can also be very painful for the parent.


Understanding the source of conflict is the first step to resolution. Parent counseling or therapy can be helpful to parents who need help in understanding or dealing with parent-child conflict, no matter what their parenting style may be. We

Parental Expectations

When a parent-child relationship has gotten to the point that neither parent nor child can be a winner, the best solution is usually to take a step back and reassess goals. What does the parent expect from the child? Is it a reasonable expectation? What can they do if the child has other ideas or feelings? A therapist can help the parent reevaluate their expectations. They can help them learn a more advantageous parenting style as well as techniques to deal with specific behaviors.

The Pressure Of Parenting Well

Parents sometimes resist going to counseling for parent-child conflicts because they fear they will be harshly judged. However, the role of the counselor is to work with the parent, not against them. Therapists are aware that the parent is the one who has the most power to bring positive change. They see the parent's wellbeing as a crucial part of a peaceful home environment.

Therapy Begins With The Parent

There was a time when counseling for parent-child conflict began with the child. The child might go to a therapist for play therapy or even individual counseling. While some children still need to go to counseling in certain instances, therapy for parent-child conflicts is now typically focused on the parent because the parent has the greater capacity to make changes that are reasonable and beneficial.

Therapy May Take Time

Parents may feel overwhelmed by conflict when they begin therapy. They may need to hear suggestions a few times, as well as spend time considering them at home before they are able to put them into place. It's important to remember that due to these factors, therapy may take some time before it produces noticeable results, but it will.

Learning About Your Child

The parent learns about themselves as well as their child. The counselor can help parents to identify problems that the child may not yet be able to express or understand on their own. They can bring in knowledge of where the child is developmentally, and how it relates to the conflict that is taking place. In this way, parent counseling can provide a type of education for the parent that they may not get any other way.

Parenting Is Difficult At Every Age
Learn How Parent-Child Counseling Can Help You Navigate Parenting Today.


Seeing All Sides Of The Conflict

In therapy, parents will need to identify the part they are playing in continuing the conflict. They may think at first that the child is the main source of the problem. However, when they look closer at their own behavior, they can begin to see how their responses to the child's behavior affect the situation. When a parent finds out they are contributing to the conflict, they may feel guilt or shame. However, this can be the first step to solving the conflict entirely.

You May Receive Assignments

Oftentimes, sessions will end with an assignment for the parent. The counselor might request the parent to identify a certain type of situation with their child in the days following the therapy session. At first, the assignments consist of observing what happens, rather than doing anything to make changes. Later, the assignments might be geared toward resolving the conflicts as soon as the problem behavior is identified.

Other Ways To Improve Your Parent-Child Relationship

There are many ways to improve the relationship that you have with your children, so do not worry if you are not quite ready to try counseling. You can try the suggestions below before giving therapy a chance, or you can combine them with therapy for an even greater improvement in the relationship you have with your child.

Make Time To Talk To Your Child

In today's society, it is becoming easier and easier to love someone without even really speaking to them. We are living out busy schedules, and we often have our eyes glued to our smartphones and other electronic devices. These trends take away our chance to spend meaningful time speaking to those closest to us.

As a parent, you may want to consider setting time aside each day to speak with your child. Put away the smartphones and turn off the television. Ask them how their day was, or let them tell you how they feel about the current circumstances. Ask them how school is going, how sports have been, and how the relationships they have with friends are. If you can get your child to really open up during these conversations, you will get to know them better, even if it seems like you already know them well. Your child will find that they can confide in you as well. This connection and trust will help to lessen the conflict that occurs between the two of you during other times of the day.

Consider Parent-Child Dates

Aside from just talking, consider taking your child out to do some of their favorite things. This one-on-one time will help provide you and your old with positive interactions. These positive interactions may be lacking if there are constant arguments happening between the two of you, so these special dates can balance emotions and help the two of you connect in a healthy way.


Provide Explanations For Your Decisions

Many of your conflicts with your child likely happen when you make a parental decision that they do not agree with. Try to remember that your child understands more than you believe, and give them a sincere reason behind each unpopular decision you make. Even if they do not understand at the moment, they will have that reason in their mind to think through later on. Eventually, your child will start to see that you truly do have their best interest in mind. This may be a slow process, but eventually, this may reduce the conflicts you have with your child.

Seeking Help

If you feel ready to speak with a counselor, consider an online platform like BetterHelp. BetterHelp can give you the support and tools you need from the comfort and safety of your own home. There's no need to sit in traffic or worry about taking time out of your day to drive to an appointment. This can be extremely helpful when trying to fit therapy into the busy life of parenting that you live. Read below for some reviews of BetterHelp counselors, from parents experiencing similar issues.

Counselor Reviews

"I have been working with Carolyn for 6 months now, and have tremendously benefited from her counseling as I support my daughter for Anorexia. Anorexia is a very complex mind-body illness, and the family members can play a very important role in the recovery by educating ourselves and understanding her behavior. This allows me to use correct words with her and watch my own behavior with her, so I am supporting her in a healthy manner and not enabling her illness further. Additionally, my own stress has been very difficult as I watch my sweet daughter suffer, so I had been in need of finding coping skills for myself. Carolyn's expertise, her very compassionate but clear guidelines and feedback to me have made me more confident and capable of dealing with this difficult illness. I am finding a lot of strength from her therapy, and most importantly, I am handling my daughter better and can see the difference in my interactions with her. I am thankful to Carolyn for coming into my life when I needed someone to guide me through this. In addition to our weekly video chats, I am able to send her quick texts on the BetterHelp app if an issue arises, and I need her thoughts, and Carolyn replies back very quickly with more tips to help me. I have recommended BetterHelp to friends as access to a great therapist like Carolyn would not have been possible for me without this platform... while I also do this from the convenience of my time and home. Thank you, Carolyn, and thank you, BetterHelp, for being here for me!"

"I am THRILLED with Rachel and with BetterHelp! It is affordable, I am a single mom with 4 kids on a tight budget and a LOT of stress, and this format makes it easy to get help. I LOVE that I can write my feelings to her whenever I am having them, not have to wait a week for the next session. She is very insightful, and I am thankful!"


If you are struggling with conflict between you and your child, remember that you're not alone. Parenting is a challenge for every mom and dad. However, it is something that has available support when you need it. Consider reaching out to a therapist to help with the conflict within your household. No matter what you're experiencing, a healthy, fulfilling relationship with your child is possible - all you need are the right tools. Take the first step today.

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