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Sheri Wohlfert shares helpful tips for parents whose children are determined to test their authority.

There are dozens of reasons parenting is the greatest “gig” on earth but there are also days it can seem like the toughest job on the planet! The common denominator to our tough days is often authority. The parent’s job is to establish and uphold it, and the child’s role is to question and test it.  

More often than we’d like, the line between negotiation and manipulation can get a little fuzzy. Here are some tips for successfully managing conflict without emotional blackmail, whining, complaining and habitual arguing.  

Truth #1: It’s natural for kids to throw temper tantrums, lie, have emotional outbursts and argue to get what they want. They will try anything to get a reaction that leads to an outcome in their favor. Your response to their truth can change everything!  

Truth #2: The demands of life leave parents tired, stressed and frustrated. We can’t allow ourselves to “tap out” and give in to our kids’ manipulative behavior, so we need to plan our response when the waters are calm instead of trying to paddle when the storms are raging.  




The Great News: It takes two to tango ... and you control the music. As humans, we need to learn to make our needs known. We have to be able to negotiate, compromise and problem solve, and we begin learning how to do these really important things as kids. We are the first teachers of these important lessons.  

Yes, It’s Exhausting: Kids will push hard, and you are what they push against. Consistency, love and persistent expectations of acceptable behavior is the greatest way to love our kids.  

Know Your Triggers and Don’t Take the Bait: Kids figure out our weaknesses and they play on them. They can play the sad, unfair, “you don’t love me” or “all my friends are" card at just the right moment to break you down. Knowing ahead of time how you’ll maneuver these moments will allow you to follow through in a way that helps your child learn and helps you feel calm.  




It’s Not About You: If your kids lie or talk disrespectfully, it is more about them testing boundaries and getting what they want. It really isn’t personal—so remember, you are the rock their waves of emotion crash against. You need to remain strong and focused. Our kids can’t be the source of our affirmations and friendship; we need to seek those things from other adults.  

Think Long Haul, Not Short Game: Fussing over candy, screen time, toys, attention, cars, and curfews are all part of normal and healthy growth and development. We want our kids to grow up to be confident problem solvers capable of compromise and negotiation and who have a voice. We can’t throw up our hands and wish they’d just stop testing us; we must prayerfully approach each of those situations and know they are part of raising great saints. 


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Remember that our goal as Catholic parents is to make sure our kids are holy, healthy, and safe. #CatholicMom


As you prayerfully prepare your response plan, remember that our goal as Catholic parents is to make sure our kids are holy, healthy, and safe. Let these three things form your responses to conflict. They allow us to respond with phrases like, “I want you to be healthy, so you won’t be eating a Twinkie for breakfast” or “I do love you, and going to place X just isn’t safe” or “God chose to make me your parent, so I need to do what’s best for you and let every other parent make the decision for their own kids.” A quick shout-out to the Holy Spirit for words and the Blessed Mother for intercession at the moment of conflict is always a powerful first step. 



Copyright 2023 Sheri Wohlfert
Images: Canva