Every family experiences conflict, so modeling healthy resolutions can help you show your children how they can react when they encounter difficult situations. Whether you find yourself arguing with your partner, extended family members, or the kids themselves, resolving family conflicts in a healthy way gives kids the tools they need as they grow and develop. Let Crème de la Crème show you a few strategies you can try the next time you face a family conflict.
Remember There’s Someone Else Involved in the Conflict
Conflicts inherently include more than one party. Keep in mind that any conflict you encounter is mutual, and you’ll need the other person’s help to resolve the problem. When you remember to work together to come to an agreement, you can turn family arguments into a learning experience for the kids.
Try to reframe a conflict as a mutual problem, using “we” language when you discuss the issue at hand. If you’re arguing with your spouse, the way you discuss a problem can impact how the kids behave when they have their own disagreements. For instance, instead of telling your spouse they need to deal with something, say, “We need to figure out what to do about [insert your conflict here!].” Kids will pick up on these healthier discussion strategies.
You’ll also want to consider any situation from the other party’s viewpoint — even if you believe the other person is wrong. This goes for kids, spouses, parents, or anyone with whom you find yourself tangled in conflict. You won’t get a resolution if you only think about your own perspective as you need your sparring partner to sign off on any agreement. Instead of demanding your kids clean up their toys, for example, show them how cleaning can benefit them as well (like more room to play).
Likewise, try not to react based on your fears. This can often lead to instinctive reactions to blame the other person, which doesn’t get you anywhere in a conflict. Even in truly tense moments, practicing patience and compassion sets a healthy example. To do so, employ careful listening strategies. Acknowledge the other person’s feelings without being condescending, and take those feelings into consideration when you offer suggestions for how to resolve the conflict.
Acknowledge What You Can — And Can’t — Control
We’ve all had situations when we could predict frustrating, annoying interactions with family members before they happened. Although you might be able to anticipate how others will act in a given situation, you can’t control their actions. You can, however, control how you respond.
Your reactions to provocations can change the dynamic of a situation, creating more positive interactions overall. In the end, that gives you more control than you might initially imagine over how people treat you. If you want to experience positive results, you can alter your own approach to common family conflicts.
Communication is key. The decision one person makes will impact the choice of their conversation partner. So, start by holding back on what you’d normally say in response to a given provocation. Some examples of strategies you can try include:
- If you usually let someone keep talking to the point you get frustrated, you can link something you want to say to the other person’s subject and then pivot to another topic.
- If you typically come back with your own challenge when challenged, trying posing a question instead.
- If you feel like you’re getting blamed for something, try saying, “I didn’t think of it that way, but I see what you’re saying,” instead of immediately getting defensive.
All in all, you’ll want to try simple tweaks to what you usually do when faced with conflict. While you can’t control family members’ behavior, you CAN control how you react. By avoiding your own predictable behaviors, you can prevent others from maneuvering you into arguments and instead discuss and resolve conflicts in a healthy way.
Preparing for Future Conflicts
Though coming to healthy resolutions can help prevent conflicts in the future, the truth is, it’s impossible to prevent every conflict. Anticipating potential future conflicts can prepare you to react in a healthy way.
If getting together with certain family members always leads to fighting, try to think about how you want things to go before you’re all in the same room. This could include:
- Identifying patterns you tend to experience.
- Thinking about the points where you’ll have to make a choice about how you’ll react.
- Considering alternative responses you could choose.
You’ll want to think through a few strategies for each scenario. Instead of getting trapped in the typical conflicts and hurt feelings that come from those conflicts, imagine the tone you want a conversation to take and try to lead your interaction in the right direction.
Your own responses at pivotal points can steer conflicts in a new direction, so having a few well-considered tactics up your sleeve can get you ready. It’s hard to think of new ways to react in the heat of the moment, so taking the time to consider things beforehand can give you the tools you need to inspire healthy conflict resolution.
Reacting to Conflicts With Kids
While modeling healthy ways to resolve family conflicts can give your kids subconscious tools for handling their own conflicts, children of course have a harder time controlling emotions. Physical outbursts can happen, and you’ll need to intervene and explain (calmly!) what you’ve observed to your children.
Here’s a simple example to tailor to your specific situation: “It looks like you were mad at Sally for taking your blocks, so you hit her. What can you do to make Sally feel better?”
A calm but clear statement of observation gives children the opening to talk about feelings. You can then explain that being angry is okay, but physical reactions are not. At the same time, you’ll want to make sure you praise kids when they act appropriately and cooperate. Pointing out the positives is just as important as constructively acknowledging negative behaviors.
Do you have a tried-and-true strategy for healthy conflict resolution with your family? Drop us a line so we can share your recommendation!