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Misunderstood: Parent/Child Conflict

Updated: May 17, 2023

The boy pictured on this post is my son Justin, age ten.


One day, around this age, I took Justin and his brother Tristan to a zoo an hour and half drive away.


As we arrived, Justin asked: "How long are we going to be here?"


It's a simple question begging a simple answer. I could have said three hours, or I don't know. Instead, I made an assumption. Here is what I heard:


"I don't want to be here. How long until we can leave?"


I responded based on my interpretation of what should have been a straightforward question by saying, "I can't believe we just got here and you already want to go home. That's a pretty ungrateful attitude."


Justin looked at me blankly; a look of confusion plastering his face.


Fast-forward to 2016. Justin was fifteen years old and I had him complete a strengths assessment. When I got the results, the report practically slapped me across the face. The strength in the top position read: FUTURISTIC.


"You are the kind of person who loves to peer over the horizon. The future fascinates you. As if it were projected on the wall, you see in detail what the future might hold, and this detailed picture keeps pulling you forward, into tomorrow."


Justin wanted to know if he needed to plan the rest of his day, or if the zoo was going to take up the entire day, because he thinks in the future.


I misunderstood, which is ironic because my number one strength is Futuristic!


Sometimes we misunderstand why someone says something because we are wired with different priorities, values, or personalities. Justin is a lot like me and I still misunderstood.


My assumption was wrong and he didn't have the language to explain his intent behind the question. Instead, he stood on the spot, puzzled by my reaction. Henry Winkler once said, "Assumptions are the termites of relationships."


As we sat at the table reading Justin's report I said, "I owe you an apology." I retold the story of our exchange and shared that I now understand what he meant that day.


Can you think of a time a family member misunderstood you?


Our strengths set our priorities. Imagine the misunderstandings when we are wired completely different than others in our lives. It makes you wonder how right we actually are. Is that person's motivation as obvious as we thought?


Parents and children with different strengths can experience conflict.


For example, a child that is a Thinker can frustrate a Result-Oriented parent who doesn’t understand why a child procrastinates on tasks. Assuming a child is “lazy” is a common reaction. Procrastination is avoidance. We avoid things that aren’t a priority for us.


Our strengths fall into four categories:


Relating with people (showing empathy, positivity, being easy to get along with, making connections)


Influencing people (getting people to act, speaking persuasively, showing confidence, expressiveness)


Executing to get results (achieving, organizing, planning, creating structure, process, being dependable)


Thinking about the world (ideas, learning, vision, strategy, analyzing, curiosity, processing information)


Your child's strengths set his or her priorities, just as your strengths set yours!


If your child has Relating strengths, he prioritizes relationships. Relators build one-on-one connections and like to work and connect with people.


If your child has Influencing strengths she likely prioritizes persuading others. Influencers work through people and tend to prefer meeting a variety of new people.


If your child has Executing strengths he likely prioritizes tasks. Organizers are doers who are driven to get results, often independently.


If your child has Thinking strengths, she likely prioritizes mental challenge. Thinkers need time alone to process, plan, analyze, learn, strategize, and make decisions.


Do you think you have Relating, Influencing, Executing, or Thinking strengths?


How do your strengths complement your child's? How do your strengths conflict?


Instead of focusing on being right, we can shift our focus to being effective.


Idea for action:

When you have a negative reaction to what someone has said or done, rather than reacting, tell them how you've interpreted their words or actions. Let them know you don't want to misunderstand them and offer them the opportunity to clarify their priorities and intentions.


If speaking to a child, be patient and allow them to try to articulate how they are feeling or thinking.


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Need more support? You can get a personalized YouMap® Youth profile (ages 8-12), YouMap® Teen profile (ages 12-14) or regular YouMap® profile (ages 15 - 120!) or work with a YouMap® Coach to help you understand your strengths, values, motivating skills, and personality-based interests.










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