Fueling disputes or building bridges?

„In every dispute between parent and child, both cannot be right, but they may be, and usually are, both wrong. It is this situation which gives family life its peculiar hysterical charm.” – Isaac Rosenfeld

Almost every adult has some incident etched into their memory of when they felt that their parents treated them unfairly. Children have an acute sense of fairness and very long memories. So if you don’t apologize for the times you treat them badly, it can cause great resentment later on.

Though it’s true that time can „heal all wounds”, in reality it’s just as likely to make them worse. If problems aren’t resolved, they can create a barrier that just gets higher as time goes on.

It might not seem fair, but if things have gone wrong between you and your child, it’s up to you as the parent to make the first move to put them right. If you’ve got upset with each other and have fallen out, don’t wait for them to apologize and somehow change the situation. It doesn’t matter how much you think they were to blame for causing it in the first place: you’re an adult and they’re not. So it’s your responsibility to offer the olive branch.

If it was your fault, begin by apologizing. Say something like, „I’m not feeling myself today, and I took it out on you. I know I shouldn’t have, and I’m sorry.” Or, „It was silly of me to get so upset and shout at you.I wish I’d never done it. I’m sorry.” Whatever you do, make sure that your apology is sincere.

If you were mostly or partly to blame, then bite the bullet and own up. Admit to what you did wrong, and don’t try to justify it. Most family fights are a case of „six of one and half a dozen of another”. And though they begin small, they quickly escalate into something close to full-scale nuclear Armageddon, usually because no one wants to back down and admit they were wrong, even though they know they were. By making the first move, you’ll make it much easier for your child to admit their own mistakes. They’re probably feeling bad about what they said or did. So if you give the lead, they may be able to admit they were also wrong, and say sorry for their part in things. But even if they don’t, you’ve still defused the situation and given them lots to think about and learn from.

If it wasn’t your fault at all, you still need to make the first move. But even if you’re absolutely convinced beyond a shadow of doubt that the whole thing was their fault, and there’s no blame whatsoever on your side of the fence, don’t say so! You’ll only put your child on the defensive again, even if they were ready to apologize. It’s a natural reaction, when someone attacks you, to attempt to defend yourself. So try to say something comforting and constructive instead: ” I guess your day was horrible. So was mine. But I really don’t like arguing. Let’s put this behind us.”

By making the first move, you’re building a bridge between you and your child. They need to get things sorted out even more than you do. But they don’t have the knowledge, self-confidence or maturity to begin building bridges on their own. So it’s up to you to make a start. It’s your job to begin creating an atmosphere of trust rather than hostility between you. But be careful: if you start coming across the bridge you’ve just built with all guns blazing, don’t be surprised if your child blows it up again.

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