What is the collateral damage to children that experience confrontation which is unsafe? The damage is immeasurable. Emotionally and behaviorally children need to experience healthy confrontation which sustains the characteristics of safe parental relationships; consistency, dependability, reliability, predictability, caring, selfless, and loving. When children can feel safe within confrontation, they are able to appropriately assimilate the message being given as well as experience sensitivity to the relational meaning of the interaction. This relational meaning allows the child to experience empathy for what the parent is expressing while sustaining the self worth to be motivated to change the action or behavior. This type of safe confrontation preserves the personal value of the child and increases their positive self-concept (motivation, self-efficacy, empathy, drive, etc.).
When the confrontation is unsafe, the emotional and behavioral damage can be immeasurable. Unsafe confrontation is experienced when there is a leveraging of personal value, spitefulness, resentment, hostility, pride, defensiveness, aggressiveness, sarcasm, and abuse. This type of confrontation reinforces a childs insecurities and sense of shame. Since the child cannot feel emotionally safe, they are apt to internalize this relationship as flawed due to their own inherent lack of worth or value. Creating this perception of worthlessness is extremely detrimental to the childs self-concept and their ability to trust in healthy relationships which inevitably face conflict.
Engaging in safe confrontation is essential to partaking in meaningful relationships. A childs ability to feel safe is the foundation from which they build their capacity to emotionally and behaviorally regulate and interact interdependently with others. This ability to regulate becomes the cornerstone for social, relational, and environmental functioning. A parent must ask themselves if they are providing their child with the essential experience of safe confrontation. The collateral damage is far too great not to.