Parent Counseling: Parent-Child Conflict: Win-Win

By Jessica Anderson|Updated September 1, 2022

Parents and their children will inevitably experience conflict, and it's both healthy and normal in many circumstances. However, if the conflict you have with your child involves serious behavior problems and is causing stress and other negative emotions, it may be time to consider parenting counseling with a trained professional. Thankfully there are many ways to access parenting advice through counseling, such as through online counseling. It can be challenging to navigate parent-child conflict, but it is not a hopeless situation. A counselor who provides understanding and useful parent counseling tips can make a big difference when families are dealing with the stress of childrearing. In many cases, conflicts can be improved and household stress reduced or resolved through parent counseling and learning some new life skills.

parent counseling with kid

Parenting Is Difficult At Every Age

Why Is Parent Counseling Beneficial?

Parenting therapy can be beneficial because it provides you with an outside perspective and a deeper understanding of what is going on within the walls of your home with your children and family. It provides your family members with an objective, trained professional who is skilled in assisting parents with improving the relationship with their child or children by teaching life skills for healthier and more effective communication. They can look into your parenting styles and compare them with your child's developmental behaviors, providing crucial emotional support and professional advice. They can give you and your family insight to improve the relationship based on what they find going on in your personal relationships. If one minute you feel you were taking parental leave for fathers and mothers and now your child wants nothing to do with you, parent counseling will help you understand how to relate to your child again. 

What To Expect When You Begin Parent Counseling

Parent counseling can be a strong tool when you find yourself facing significant conflict in the relationship you have with your child or children. You can have a better parent counseling experience by knowing what to expect when you meet with a mental health professional in-person or online. Here are some components of parent counseling you can expect.

Discussion Of Parenting Styles

Many parents recognize that their child has a will of their own when the child begins to learn verbal and non-verbal communication skills. The parents may not realize that the source of conflict does not necessarily arise when a child first communicates opposition to a parental command or a rule. It actually may arise from the way a parent addresses a child's opposition. Parent counseling can help you identify communication issues within the whole family.

One style of parenting is called "authoritarian." Authoritarian parents typically feel they have the final say and that "no means no." Parents who follow the authoritarian style may have difficulty adjusting their composure when their child is having a bad day or acting defiantly. Parent counseling can help you empathize more with your child and improve your understanding of the dynamics in your family unit.

Another style is "authoritative." Authoritative parents are more democratic in their approach while still setting firm limits on behavior. They recognize the value of balancing their relationship with the child and viewing their child with unconditional positive regard. They demonstrate empathy, acceptance, and understanding. They often view discipline as a teaching opportunity. This is the recommended style by parent counseling experts, and learning how to utilize this style could be a key component of the therapeutic process if you and your family choose parent counseling for dealing with the problems you’re having with your children.

Aside from these two general parenting styles, parents vary in style across the world as well. Children from various countries may grow up under different parental expectations. If children are brought into American culture after beginning their childhood within another culture, cultural differences may increase tension, causing additional stress in the family and child’s life.

Many factors affect family unit dynamics, such as household size and can also affect parenting style. Single parents may find themselves feeling particularly isolated when struggling with a child's behavior, and divorced parents may experience unique challenges in their parenting style due to how their adult relationships affect the children. Families with children of varying ages may find it more difficult to implement a consistent style of parenting with one child in particular or all their kids, especially if the children have diverse personalities or needs, mental health issues, health problems, or issues at school. Parent counseling can be a good way to become more mindful of why your child or children are acting the way they are and whether they can benefit from individual mental health counseling or if the problem is better resolved through parent counseling.

Parent counseling child cooking

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

Parental Expectations

When a parent-child relationship has reached a point where neither parent nor child can leave the situation as 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 or counselor specializing in parent counseling can help the parent or parents reevaluate their expectations to improve the family’s well-being. A licensed professional counselor specializing in parent counseling can help the parents learn a more effective parenting style and techniques to address specific behaviors.

The Pressure Of Parenting Well

Parents sometimes resist going to parent counseling for parent-child conflicts because they fear they will be harshly judged by mental health professionals. Divorced parents might be especially sensitive to feeling judged by a counselor. However, the role of the parent counseling expert/therapist is to work with the parent and family, not against them. Taking a step to improve your relationship with your child is something to be admired, not judged, and the vast majority of parent coaching professionals understand and practice this approach.

Therapists are aware that the parent is the one who has the most power to bring positive change in the family. They see a parent's wellbeing as a crucial part of a peaceful home environment. By following their lead and accepting support for your wellbeing, you can better support your child or children in turn. It can be frightening to begin parent counseling, but most parents find the experience well worth the effort.

Therapy Begins With The Parent

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

In addition, one or both parents sometimes have health problems or mental health challenges affecting their relationship with their children. These mental health issues can include low self-esteem, single parent challenges, anger management, substance abuse, abusing alcohol, or other mental health challenges.  In cases like this, a therapist can also provide mental health counseling or substance abuse counseling and create a treatment plant for the parent’s mental health issues that can take a lot of pressure off the parent/child relationship. Parents with unresolved anger management issues or abusing alcohol can make parent counseling much harder, and when a parent can take responsibility for working through their own challenges, it can make parent counseling much more successful.

Therapy May Take Time

Parents may feel overwhelmed by conflict when they begin parent counseling. They may need to hear suggestions a few times and spend quality time at home considering what they have learned in parent counseling before they can successfully put their new skills into place dealing with their child or children. It's important to remember that therapy may take some time before it produces noticeable results due to these factors. Be patient with yourself as you learn new ways of managing difficult situations, and try not to put pressure on yourself, your family, or your child to do everything right immediately.

Learning About Your Child

In therapy, the counselor helps the parent reach a deeper understanding about themselves and their child. The counselor can help parents 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 might relate to the conflict that is taking place. In this way, parent counseling can provide a unique and valuable type of education for the parent, their children, and the family as a whole.

Parenting Is Difficult At Every Age

Parent Counseling Provides Explanations For Your Decisions

Many of your conflicts with your child may happen when you make a parenting decision that your child does not agree with. Parent counseling therapists suggest remembering that your child might understand more than you believe they do. Therefore, it is important to give them a genuine reason behind each unpopular decision you make. "Because I said so" may pop out now and then—and you are the parent, which means you are in charge—but at the moment, the child may not respond well to this approach.  This answer is often counterproductive and might make you seem illogical, arbitrary, or unfair. Helping your child understand your thought process, for example, by saying, "I told you that you needed to clean your room before you can leave with your friends, and it's very important to me that you learn to keep your commitments"—can give them more respect for your authority in the long run. Eventually, your child may fully grasp that you truly do have their best interest and the wellbeing of your family in mind.

Seeking Help

Parent counseling can provide several benefits to any family unit facing parent-child conflict. Remember that receiving therapy is no disparagement of your ability as a parent; in fact, seeking expert, professional advice and support only demonstrates your level of caring for your child and your whole family. Think of a therapist or counselor as a training partner who can support you as you take your parenting skills to the next level. The majority of parent counseling professionals have their own children and families, so they understand firsthand what you are going through. Parent counseling can truly make a difference; a recent study found that parents who participated in a six-session parent counseling program scored significantly higher than their pre-therapy results on measures of emotional support, satisfaction, involvement, communication, limit setting, autonomy, role orientation, and dealing with their parent-child relationship. Thanks to online therapy services like BetterHelp, you can find a way to fit this effective parent counseling into your busy life and your budget.

Online therapy with BetterHelp may be a great solution for your children and family. Online parent counseling can be arranged on a schedule that suits you—even between driving to soccer practice and picking up dinner if needed! With no need for transportation to an appointment, you can save time and hassle and meet a parent counselor via your preferred format: video chats, phone calls, emails, or text messages. Consider these reviews by others who have relied on BetterHelp therapists for support in their families.

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