Creating a Cohesive Family Unit through Parent-Child Communication and Collaboration by Angela Pruess

When parents today conceptualize the way they’d like to interact with their family, they are realizing the merits of being in the role of leader and not just a dictator. We now know that the old adage of “do as I say and not as I do!” is not an effective means of teaching and guiding our child in the long term. Where fear, intimidation and power may appear to be successful tactics in the moment, they will not promote long term compliance or development of an internal compass.

Many times well-meaning parents feel at a loss for how to establish family guidelines and run an effective and healthy household without using the easily reverted to power or fear. There is great news for those parents! There are two straightforward approaches parents can take to increase family cohesiveness and resilience as well as use to navigate challenging areas; open communication and collaborative problem solving.

Open Communication

Open communication with our child means that parents take the time to sit down and explain the thoughts behind family rules, values and decisions. As opposed to commanding blind obedience from our children, displaying a healthy degree of transparency, sets a household tone of respect, allowing children to develop intrinsic motivation for compliance.

When we communicate openly with our child in regards to family rules and values we are allowing them the opportunity to understand why we hold such values, and that rules and limits aren’t being arbitrarily set to cause them frustration. When our children get a chance to hear the logic and reasoning behind parent decisions, they are able to develop a deeper understanding and have a higher likelihood of adherence to family rules as a result.

Open communication with our child is also a clear demonstration that they are regarded as a valued and integral member of the family unit. When children are spoken to with respect, they feel seen, heard and valued as individuals as well, laying the foundation for a healthy self-esteem.


Committing to solving challenges and setting goals for the family through a collaborative approach invites our child to work alongside us in seeking out solutions. A phrase along the lines of “no more TV after school because you didn’t get your homework done tonight!” can likely be heard in many households. After all, if our child is engaging in behavior that’s not in his or her best interest, it’s our role as parent to step in and stop it, right?

It is without a doubt a parent’s role to set expectations for their child and communicate it to them when these expectations aren’t being met. For far too long however, conventional parenting wisdom has been missing an integral piece of effective problem solving in the family context, the child.

Including the child in family problem solving yields many benefits. For starters, it gives us a chance to hear things from the child’s perspective, giving us a clearer understanding of exactly how and why the expectation is currently challenging. When we have a more accurate view of the problem we can be more effective in finding successful solutions. In addition, when a child has their thoughts and concerns heard and validated, they are all the more likely to be open to parent input, gaining insight into how their actions impact the family.

Secondly, inviting the child to collaborate in negotiating family problem solving or goal setting greatly increases the chances for success. When family decisions are mutually derived the child is empowered to accept personal responsibility for the determined outcome, not to mention the valuable skills learned in problem solving and critical thinking.

Utilizing open communication and collaboration with our children shifts the family dynamic to from dictatorship to team. A team where members all deserve to be on the same page and can work through challenges with respect and validation for all involved.


Using the Kidibank™ app allows parents engage positively with their children in order to promote self-competence, healthy habits and responsibilities. Find out more at

Angela Pruess, LMFT, is a Child and Family Therapist and special needs parent on a mission to support and empower parents of behaviorally challenging kids.  Over at, she wants to make life easier for you by decoding your child’s maddening behaviors, as well as their developmental and emotional needs. When she’s not supporting parents, or seeing kids in her private practice, she is at home being challenged (a lot) by her own three kids (and sometimes husband). Follow her on facebook.