Have you ever heard this? “But, Mom, SHE started it!” “Did NOT!” “Did TOO!”
Or said this? “We are going to settle this, and we are going to settle it right NOW!”
Being able to settle differences is an invaluable life skill.
But the above scenario is not set up for a satisfactory ending.
Under the stress of conflict, our brains secrete chemicals and hormones that create a “Fight or Flight” response. This is great when your very survival is at stake, but it isn’t helpful when you need your emotions to be calm and your thoughts clear.
How can we settle differences without a big blowup, hurt feelings, resentment or creating losers?
Here are some ideas to help you get started:
-Cool off. This goes for adults too. Actual parenting emergencies are rare. The “Fight or Flight” response is triggered by the stress of conflict. It might feel like an emergency, but it’s probably not. Take a few minutes, an hour or half-a-day if necessary.
-Relax. You don’t need to be a detective or figure out who did what to whom. Your job is to help identify the problem without blaming or shaming anyone. This will take some thinking time.
-Engage the Kids. Ask those involved when would be a good time to work things out. Whether it is now or later, agree on a time to get together.
-Say Thank You. For what? For everyone agreeing to work together. Affirm their ability to come up with a solution.
-Set some basic rules:
– Everyone listens all the time and tries to understand the other’s point of view.
– Only one person talks at a time. Use an object to help identify the speaker, e.g. a stuffed animal or other soft item if it helps.
– No interrupting. No put-downs.
– There are no bad ideas.
– When everyone agrees, present the problem as clearly as you can without blaming anyone.
– Ask for solutions. The funnier the better! The chemicals released in the brain when you laugh are the same ones that stimulate creativity. Every idea has equal consideration. Write a list if there are lots of ideas.
– Allow the children to cross off ideas they are not willing to live with. Take your turn to cross off ideas that aren’t going to work for you.
– Out of the remaining ideas, make an agreement and promise to use it for a period of time to see how it works.
– Schedule a time to check in. Did it work? Great! If it didn’t, why? How can we tweak it so that it works better? Use the same process for generating ideas.
This may sound time consuming. On the front end, it is.
Think of it this way – you are investing time now so that in the future your children know to handle their disputes on their own and with respect. This is a lifelong skill, so the time you invest will be well-spent.
Dr. Lesley Iwinski is the mother of three grown children, a family physician and owner of Growing Peaceful Families, LLC. She offers classes, workshops and seminars.
Info: (859) 333-3053 or www.growingpeacefulfamilies.com.