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16 Tips to Help Parents Manage Conflict

16 tips to manage conflict with your child

Erica HerzogBy Erica Herzog, LMFT
Supervisor of Family Preservation, KVC Kansas

This article from the KVC Institute for Health Systems Innovation is the sixth in an 12-part series on parenting skills. See previous articles.


Conflicts between children and parents are common and provide parents an opportunity to teach their children how to effectively manage conflict with others. As a parent, you are always modeling and teaching your child. Your child learns many of his or her social skills by interacting with you and observing your interactions with others. Training yourself to effectively manage conflict and practice this skill can be of great value for both you and your child.

Here are 16 helpful tips for managing conflict with your child:

  1. Disengage
    If the conversation begins to get heated, respectfully disengage by saying, “Let’s take a break from this conversation and come back in about 10 minutes when we have calmed down.”
  2. Define your goal
    State what it is that you want. Be specific and future-oriented. Talking about the past can provoke negative reactions and prevent forward movement.
  3. Write your goal down
    Write down your goal on a piece of paper and keep it with you. Reference it and restate it when the conversation gets off-topic.
  4. Listen in a sensitive and caring way
    Use active listening skills to hear what the other person is saying. Show that you understand their point of view. Be soothing. Don’t fan the flames of conflict.
  5. Plan ahead
    Develop a good plan of action. Gather information and search for new ideas.
  6. Consult with others
    Ask friends, family or professionals for feedback to help you sharpen your goals and design action plans.
  7. Use good timing
    Talk when people are in a good mood, open to engaging in a conversation and when there is enough time. Don’t bring up problems when people are rushed, hungry, upset or have been drinking.
  8. Location, location, location
    Choose the right place to have a discussion. Decide if the conversation should take place in public or in private, in a noisy or quiet place.
  9. Plan your presentation
    Think of different ways to introduce the subject. Be tactful. Don’t just say the first thing that comes to mind.
  10. Rehearse your presentation
    Practice your approach out loud so that you can improve your tone of voice. Use the mirror to correct your facial expressions and body language.
  11. Anticipate a reaction
    Imagine how the discussion will play out and prepare for the best and worst possible scenarios.
  12. Rehearse your responses to anticipated reactions
    Ask a friend to role play the other person in the conflict. Try out different reactions and responses.
  13. Acknowledge your own responsibility
    If there are certain things you can do or could have done differently, admit to a share of the blame. The other person may become more open-minded and cooperative.
  14. Be prepared to compromise
    You may not be able to get the exact outcome you want, so both sides may have to give a little.
  15. Design a plan
    Work together to write out an agreement.
  16. Revise plans
    Difficult and enduring problems don’t change easily or with the first try. After a fair test, make improvements to the agreement.

Interested in trying this out? Download this Managing Conflict Worksheet!

Managing conflict is one of twelve skills taught in the Parent Management Training- Oregon (PMTO) model. PMTO is developed on 40 years of research and practice with the core belief that parents are their children’s best teachers. KVC teaches this empowering evidence-based practice to parents and caregivers involved in the child welfare system, but the lessons learned from this model can be beneficial for any parent or caregiver. To learn about PMTO in Kansas, visit the Kansas Department for Children and Families’ website.

Read the other articles in this parenting skills blog series.

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