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Survey Results: How Well Do Kids Get Along With Parents?

Do you get along with your parents? It probably depends on the day. But how would you say you get along most of the time?

That’s what KidsHealth.org and TIME for Kids asked in a survey of more than 9,000 kids ages 8 to 14. (We also asked 900 hundred moms and dads some similar questions.)

Most kids said they get along well or at least OK with their parents. But it’s harder to stay close (and avoid arguments) as kids get older, the survey found.

You probably already know that even in the happiest families, things aren’t perfectly perfect. And wouldn’t it be strange if no one ever disagreed or everyone was absolutely happy all of the time? Kids and parents disagree and sometimes argue. On some days, kids might feel super close and loving toward their parents. Other times, they might feel less connected. But hopefully the close, cozy feelings are there a lot of the time and last through the years.

It’s a good time to say that not every kid has a parent they can feel close to, but hopefully all kids have someone special in their lives. That person could be a grandparent, an aunt, or even a teacher — someone who cares about you and roots for you. Every kid needs support from someone older and it doesn’t have to be the same person all the time. These special people want you to do well and they help you any way they can. 

Let’s start with some good news: The majority of kids we surveyed (67%) say they get along well, or pretty well, with their parents. And most parents of (67%) say they get along well, or pretty well, with their kids. 

That’s not all. 

  • 85% of kids said they have fun with their parents.
  • 84% of parents said they have fun with their kids.
  • 79% of kids said they feel close to their parents.
  • 77% of parents said they feel close to their kids. 

But what about the rest of the kids and parents? About 3% of younger kids (ages 8–11) and 6% of older kids (12–14) said they did not get along with mom and dad. Also, 7% of younger kids and 13% of older kids said they got along with their parents “not so well.”

While many kids (69%) said they knew their parents were proud of them, some kids did not feel that way. Those kids were more likely to argue with their parents. About 20% of younger kids and 33% of older kids said they argued “a lot” with their parents. (That’s 1 out of every 5 kids in the 8–11 age group and 1 in every 3 kids for the 12–14 age group.) 

Hey, do you notice something? More kids who are older said they argued a lot with their parents. We saw this same pattern when we asked about other things, like getting along or even having fun together. Almost 90% of kids ages 8–11 said they had fun with their parents. But that number dropped to 76% for kids ages 12–14. 

Older kids also were more likely to say they did not feel their parents were proud of them. Almost three quarters (75%) of younger kids felt their parents were proud of them. But that number dropped to 58% for the older kids. 

That is not good news. Most of us want to argue less. Life is happier that way. And we want the important people in our lives to feel proud of us. 

Older kids also were more likely to say they lied a lot to their parents. While 8% of younger kids said they lied a lot, that number jumped to 17% for older kids. 

No matter the question, the relationship between parents and kids seems to get harder as kids get older, the survey showed. Why is that?

Well, there are several reasons. One is that as kids get older they naturally want to do more stuff on their own and hang out more with friends. You probably don’t share every detail of your day like you did when you were younger. You make more of your own decisions. And you want more privacy and more freedom. All normal. This is a change for mom and dad because, hey, you used to be perfectly happy to spend Saturday night with them! 

But growing up and getting more independent is a good thing. It’s just that it can be hard when things change. So if you used to spend Saturday just hanging out at home and now you want to go out with friends, there’s a lot more stuff that needs to get worked out. First, you have to ask permission to do something, like go to a friend’s house. Maybe you’ll need a parent to drive you there, too. Plus, maybe you think you might go out to the movies and you’ll need some money. All those items will have to be discussed and figured out. Your parent might ask lots of questions like:

  • Which friend?
  • Where does your friend live?
  • Will his/her parents be home?
  • Which movie will you see?
  • What is it rated?
  • How much money do you need?
  • What time will the movie be over?
  • Will you be at the movies alone or will your friend’s parent be there?
  • Which movie theater?
  • What time will I pick you up?
  • Where will I pick you up — in front of the movie theater or at your friend’s house?

All these questions might just make you groan because maybe you don’t know all the answers. And why must your parent turn everything into such a big deal? From the parents’ side, they want to make sure you’re safe and that they always know where you are and who you’re with because, well, somebody needs to look out for you, right?

With so many more details to work out, there are bound to be arguments or at least disagreements. It’s great if you can solve these issues without arguing, but it sometimes happens. Maybe you want to go to your friend’s house, but your mom has to work and doesn’t have time to take you. That is so disappointing! So you might snap at your mom that you never get to do anything and then your mom might snap back that she doesn’t want to work on Saturday, but she does it anyway, so be grateful! Now everyone is angry. 

With this kind of stuff in mind, we asked kids what usually happens when they have an argument with a parent. How soon do they make up with mom or dad? Most kids — more than 60% — said they usually take a little time and then go back to normal. Some kids said that they made up quickly (28% of younger kids and 18% of older kids.) It’s great if you can forgive quickly — and be forgiven quickly

But other kids reported that they and their parents stayed angry with each other for a long time. Ten percent of younger kids and 18% of older kids said they were stuck in that unhappy situation after an argument. 

So what can a kid do? Well, the truth is that a kid can’t solve everything. The grown-up mom or dad has an important part to play. Parents can do these important jobs to stay close to you:

  • Be a good listener.
  • Show love.
  • Show respect.
  • Expect you to do good things. (This isn’t expecting you to be perfect. It means thinking the best of you.)
  • Set fair rules and make sure you follow them.
  • Help you with problems.
  • Be happy for your success.

Here are 10 steps kids can take to feel closer to their parents and have fewer arguments:

  1. Know that most kids (and their parents) want to stay close. So even if your parents drive you a little crazy, they still care about what’s going on with you and want to feel they’re a part of your life, especially as you get older.
  2. Find ways to let parents in on your life. Tell them how things are going for you, even if it’s just a small detail, like how you are liking (or not liking) your new teacher. 
  3. When they ask “How was your day?” instead of just saying “good” or “OK,” share something about school, friends, or an activity.
  4. Have fun together. Find things you enjoy doing together to have fun, relax, or laugh. Be willing to make time for them. 
  5. Share good news with your mom or dad. Then they can share your excitement and feel proud of you. It makes them happy to see that you’re growing up and doing great. 
  6. Go to your parent with a problem — big or small. Parents want kids to turn to them, and most kids say they want their parent to be there for them. It’s sometimes hard to talk about personal stuff or problems. But the more you do it, the easier it gets. And most people feel better after talking.
  7. Spend time with your mom or dad — help prepare a meal, take a walk, or drive somewhere. (This gives you a chance to do the stuff we suggested above in 2, 3, 4, 5, and 6.)
  8. Talk with kindness and respect. Even when you disagree, avoid yelling, angry or mean words, and disrespect. These behaviors hurt relationships and make it hard for people to feel close.   
  9. Say more “yes” more than “no.” You probably want your parent to do that, too! Parents are more likely to say yes when kids are cooperative, do what’s expected without grumbling or pushing back, and follow everyday rules and expectations. You’re earning their trust! 
  10. Express your love and appreciation. Parents do lot — they work hard at their jobs and at home, too. Their lives can be busy and stressful at times. Try a hug, a note, a kind act, or a simple thank-you. We don’t need a survey to know that 100% of moms and dads love that! 
Reviewed by: D'Arcy Lyness, PhD
Date reviewed: March 2016

Note: All information on KidsHealth® is for educational purposes only. For specific medical advice, diagnoses, and treatment, consult your doctor.

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