I wrote Stop the Screaming in order to help parents better understand and resolve conflicts with their children and adolescents. Not abusive or violent, these are the conflicts that arise in the normal course of family life. They happen at any time or on any occasion—during play, at family meals, and even on vacations. They are typically based on misunderstandings, disagreements, or incompatibilities. Misunderstandings can happen when messages are unclear or false assumptions are made. Disagreements can happen when perceptions are contradictory or opposing wants collide. Incompatibilities can happen when characteristics are not shared or when two people rub each other the wrong way. Conflict is the process through which individuals confront and work out these kinds of differences in human relationships.
Several parental roles provoke conflict with children. As managers of family life, parents give directions, make rules, demand obedience, and apply consequences. Children may take offense to any or all of these. Because children sometimes resent parental authority, a child may resist: “Why should I have to do what you want?” As messengers of bad tidings, parents give opinions, advice, and evaluation, which children may find irritating or overly critical. When the parental point of view is unwelcome, the child may protest: “I don’t want to hear what you’re saying!” As mediators of disputes, parents arbitrate disagreements between siblings. Because it’s nearly impossible to come up with a solution that both children consider equitable and just, one child may feel mistreated and object: “You’re being unfair!”