I am a card carrying conflict avoider. Don’t get me wrong – I can stand up for myself with the best of them. Conflict just exhausts me though and I try to avoid it until I just can’t stand it any more.
If you find yourself in constant conflict with one of your children, it can wear you out. You may even find yourself almost avoiding that child or having any sort of meaningful conversations just to avoid the inevitable disagreements.
There can be a lot of reasons parents and children disagree. It may be as simple as you are setting some sort of limit your child does not like. You may have a parenting style that doesn’t work as well with one child’s personality. Your child may be going through a phase. If you are constantly in conflict with all of your children, it is probably time for a serious re-boot in your family.
The one secret I rarely if ever see in any parenting literature though, is the dynamic of the mirror child. If a parent complains about being in constant conflict with one of their children, I always ask which parent has a personality most like the child. Inevitably the parent will get a sheepish grin and admit the child is most like her.
Mirror children are actually a great opportunity for both the parent and child to grow spiritually. The problem is, most parents don’t realize the child is a mirror child. As a result, the parent and mirror child end up in almost constant conflict. The tension frustrates both of them and eventually the relationship becomes strained or non-existant.
So, how can you parent a mirror child and have a great relationship with him or her?
- Determine if you have a mirror child. We only have one child and she mirrors my husband. If my daughter and I have conflict, I need to look for other sources. While my daughter and I have a lot of interests and passions in common, her basic personality is more like her dad’s. Both are introverts and analytical by nature.They often tickle me as I watch them have conflicts caused by similar aspects of their personality.
- Recognize one of the roots of your conflict is your personal issue with your own personality and behaviors. Most likely, you will have little if any actual awareness of this unless you analyze the situation. If you are an extrovert and it always bugs you that you talk so much, you are more likely to be harsh with your similarly extroverted child when she talks a blue streak.
- Avoid coming down hard on your child for these behaviors that may come naturally, but need to be harnessed to make him more godly (or fill in the adjective you are worried about). Instead, make it a collaborative effort. Admit to your child why the particular behavior has caused you issues. Tell him, how you still struggle with softening or eliminating the behavior and why you believe it is important that you succeed. A child or teen will respond to this type of conversation better because it makes more sense than yelling at them for something you “do even more than I do” (in the teen’s mind).
- Agree to help each other tackle the issue. Maybe you want to create a simple hand signal or code word to use with each other when you lapse into old bad habits. Let’s be honest, often we lash out because we still struggle with the same issue. Only at our age, most people have stopped correcting us and are just secretly annoyed. We could probably use the extra loving reminders, even if it is from our child. (Caution the child to be respectful in helping you and you will do the same for him. Your signals should not embarrass each other in front of friends. In fact it should be so subtle, only the two of you are aware of it.)
- Realize some behaviors that are a part of our personality are not wrong. In fact, they may be what make us successful and adorable. There is no perfect person. Every weakness often has a corresponding strength. The trick is learning what behaviors to temper to make us more godly and so we can serve others and share our faith without annoying them to death in the process. Some things though are just part of what makes us unique. I would never suggest a child be less joyful or change their laugh, etc. unless it is obviously holding them back in some way. I was single throughout my 20’s. I had a few friends who were convinced I would “catch” a husband if I would just dress more vibrantly. Ironically, when I met my husband he thought my somewhat classic style was plenty loud for him! I did not need to change that aspect of my personality for any important reason and so I didn’t. Give your child (and yourself) some of the same flexibility.
- Find things you have in common (other than your personality) and that you can enjoy doing together. Take a break from conflict and growing from time to time and just have fun together. Whether it’s going to the movies, crafting, hiking or something else – find something you are both passionate about and spend time just enjoying each other and your relationship. Not only will it create pleasant memories, but you will learn more strengths to appreciate in each other.
- Remember, although your child may be a mirror child, she is still an unique individual. You cannot expect her to do the activities, school majors or careers you prefer just because she has similar personality traits. Although our daughter is my husband’s mirror child, she and I have more interests in common and she has many passions that are totally unique to her. You don’t want a cookie cutter child. She needs to be who God created her to be.
The next time you find yourself in conflict with the same child, take a step back and examine the situation. Is this child really your mirror child? Could you totally change your dynamic by becoming partners instead of constantly snapping at each other? Give it a try and let me know what happens.