How to Deal with Conflict

Much conflict results from someone wanting something (or wanting to be heard), and feeling like they cannot get it from someone.

Let’s take a look at what doesn’t work. What tends to intensify the conflict or prolong it is when someone communicates like this:

– I don’t want to hear you (interrupt or speaking over)
– You are fine. That’s silly.
– I don’t care what you are saying/what you want.
– What you are saying/want is not important.
– What you are saying/want doesn’t make sense.
– You shouldn’t want what you want.
– You are wrong/bad for saying that or wanting that.
– Your feelings don’t matter. Stop feeling like that.
– You are making me feel bad by you feeling like that.
– Go away until you are feeling better or until you are calm.

Do you recognize this kind of communication? What happens for you when you try to be heard and someone invalidates you with this energy above?

The result is a fight or a submission. (A lose/lose or win/lose). In parenting we look for win/wins.

— So let’s ask a question: What is the opposite of this kind of invalidating?

“I hear you, I get it what you are saying and how you are feeling, it makes sense, let’s see if we can find a solution”

So much conflict will fizzle out if just one of the parties decides to listen and hear the other. You might not be able to give the person what they want, but you can listen. Listening is often the real fix anyway.


The Non speaking part

Pause (don’t speak)
Observe myself (what am I feeling)
Observe my child (what is he feeling, what is the need)
Breathe (into my body, into my belly)
Pause some more (give myself permission to do nothing)
Look at my child with love and curiosity (trying to understand what is underneath the behavior)
Breathe again and make eye contact, so my child can see me breathing
Remind myself I am safe and I can handle this.

The Speaking Part (opposite of invalidating)

– You want X.
– You are upset because X.
– You want X but you can’t have it, that’s hard.
– You are sad/frustrated.
– It’s okay to be frustrated.
– I understand.
– That makes sense.
– That sounds hard.
– It’s hard when you want to do X but can’t do it.
– Breathe with me.
– Can I give you a hug?

(When the child has gained composure, you can move on to problem solving. Not before. If you try to engage in problem solving before composure, it WILL NOT work.

Problem Solving

– What do you think we can do?
– What would you like to do?
– What do you think is a good solution for everyone?
– We can’t do that unfortunately, but we can do X or Y, which would you like?

Problem solving is where Limit Setting can come into play. It is a more subtle way of limit setting. It’s not the dropping of a hammer. It is coming to a reasonable solution with the parent as the guide. Remember, as the guide, you do not have to give into a solution that you do not think is reasonable. In the problem solving stage, you can give a couple reasonable choices. That can often help.

If at any point emotions get big again, go back to the beginning by calming yourself and repeat the listening, paraphrasing and validating.

Conflict is a Teaching Moment

Consider using this as an intentional teaching moment, but only after everyone has calmed down and gained composure. I have debriefed conflict the next day even.

I like to pay attention to the success of the moment. I reinforce the child’s calming down and solution finding.

– You did it. You calmed down and found a solution.
– Good for you. Thanks.
– You took deep breaths and we had a conversation about what could work for everyone.
– Thanks for talking about a solution with me.

The teaching moment can also be used to look forward into the future.

– Next time this happens, what do you think you can do?
– Next time you want X, what can you do?
– Next time you want X, here is what you can do. (Give an instruction that will help the child be successful next time. For example: “Next time you want to get my attention, tap me on the shoulder like this and say excuse me Mom. Try it now,”

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