As the adults of the family, you and your partner set the tone for the home and the family. Children and young adults are simply observers who often model adult behavior. So, when there’s shouting or use of physically aggressive behavior as conflict resolution strategies, the children begin to adopt this as a way to resolve their conflict and disagreements as well.
It’s important to show your children and teens in the family that although conflicts will occur in life, there are different ways to diffuse the situation. Here are some tips to help.
Developing Conflict Management Skills:
Cooperation - Teach children to resolve conflict together. It’s important to approach conflict in a positive manner, and children need to see that if they work together, they can resolve their own problems.
Managing Emotions - It can be very difficult for children (and some adults) to maintain their composure in a conflict situation. This is especially true when there is an accusation or blame involved. In these situations, the two most common behaviors are: reacting aggressively or withdrawing completely. The best strategy is to take some time to let everyone calm down. When emotions are once again under control, it’s possible to return and discuss the problem.
Empathy - It’s important to teach children how to listen, and how to understand how others feel. The question they need to ask themselves is what does the other person need or want? It’s beneficial to imagine what it’s like to be in the other person’s place.
Communication - As children grow, they need to learn to speak clearly so others will understand them. It’s also important to always focus on being respectful, which takes practice. Adults can model this behavior in the home for their wants and needs. For example; “I would like you to ask for permission before taking my things.”
There are times when it’s just too much. Some issues are too big for children to resolve themselves, and the argument begins to escalate. If the conflict leads to physical aggression, an adult needs to intervene. It’s always best if the parent or adult can intervene prior to any physical violence.
When conflict does arise in your home, be sure to allow everyone the necessary time to allow their feelings to cool down. Once all parties are calm, then a mutual solution may be possible. Parents can always assist their child with suggestions for alternative solutions, but allow the child the decision making on the best course of action in dealing with the conflict.
Imago Dialogue skills, if practiced by the parents, can be introduced to the children in family meetings to promote the listening skills to keep the entire family emotionally connected with one another. Check out Getting the Love you Want for help with dialogue tips.
We hope these tips on managing conflict in your family will help you and your family today.
This blog post was written by David J. Kest, LMFT.