CONFLICT RESOLUTION STRATEGIES TO HELP SUPPORT YOUR CHILDREN WHEN THINGS GET HEATED.
The dreaded sibling rivalry is bound to rear it’s ugly head at some stage, it’s pretty rare that siblings won’t clash at some stage in their life.
School holidays can really bring this into the spotlight when we are likely to be spending more time together as a family unit.
Conflict arising can be a great opportunity for the whole family unit to learn some new skills.
There will be some differences in how we approach this dilemma based on our children’s age at the time.
SETTING THE EXAMPLE
The first thing we need to examine is our own means of resolving conflict with our partners, with our children, extended family, teachers and even with sales/customer service staff.
Our children are watching and learning every interaction we have with others, if we get angry and resort to behaviours we don’t want to see in our children, then we may need to adjust our personal approach to conflict.
You may need to examine how you are showing up to challenging conversations and consider if you might need to make some adjustments.
BE AN OBSERVER/NARRATOR
Conflict does and will come up and we tend to play referee when it happens with our children. Sometimes we have no option but to step in when safety becomes an issue.
When everyone is safe, a good strategy can be to take a less “problem solver” approach and more of a narrator approach.
An example of this might be…..”I can see that John seems really frustrated that Tom won’t let him have a turn on the PlayStation, I wonder how we might resolve this!”. This allows the dialogue around finding a solution to follow.
Using the term “I wonder how….” gives an open ended opportunity for your children to find a solution on their terms, the conversation may take a little more observation and narration than this, it’s not always that simple, but it’s a starting point that helps empower your children to learn about how to resolve smaller issue on their own.
SET SOME CONFLICT GUIDELINES
This is a great idea for the whole family. Some basic rules around safety and respect in place can create a good basis for a “fair fight”.
If your children are old enough to understand the concept, include them in the guideline making process.
Some examples of guidelines could include, no name calling, no physical abuse, no ignoring the other person, taking it in turns to have your say.
When observing a conflict after writing these guidelines up, you will very likely need to remind them about what they agreed to (if they were involved) or what our family guidelines are as it’s very easy to forget about them in the heat of the moment for us, even more so for our kiddos.
Yep, that’s what I said, walk away! If everyone is safe and you are feeling too frazzled to effectively support the conflict, then walk away and practice some self-care, take some deep breaths, swear and curse under your breath, do what it takes until you are where you need to be.
If you don’t walk away in time, and you lose your temper too, then guess what! That’s okay too! Not something you want to do every time, I mean, that doesn’t make for a very nice feeling home, but when it happens, you are modelling imperfection, you are showing that you’re human and that we don’t always get it right either.
How is us getting upset a good thing? Providing we don’t do it all the time, it can actually give your children a realistic example of being a human. If they never see you get upset or angry, then they may feel these are unacceptable emotions to express.
I mentioned earlier about the “fair fight”. This is where the guidelines come in to play. It is a fact of life that we will be in various conflicts, and if we shut down our children’s fighting rather than giving them the skills to do it right, this could lead to some people pleasing behaviours.
Without the skills to fight fair, we will tend towards avoiding conflict or we will struggle to reach resolutions as adults, perhaps being overly aggressive in relationships. These are super important skills for our children to learn, and to learn how to do it in a respectful way that seeks to maintain their boundaries while considering the other persons feelings and perspectives.