- Start by doing some investigation and detective work. What are the common triggers for arguments between your children? When you identify the predictable, known and expected situations that lead to arguments between your children, then you can eliminate some. For example, if your children always fight and argue when they are in the bathroom at the same time (unless that’s only in my house!) ask them to wash their hands, face and teeth without each other in the room.
- A huge part of conflict resolution is the ability to find a range of solutions to a problem. In as many situations as you can, coach your children to get their brain practised in finding solutions. Pause whilst watching films or reading books and come up with 3 ways in which a problem in the story could be solved. Discuss issues at school or in the news and brainstorm ideas for how the problem could be sorted out. Talk about common problems that cause conflict between your children and come up with as many ways of solving them as possible. Don’t judge or censor their responses initially. Write them all down until all of the ideas that you and they have are in front of you. Then talk through them. Which ones will make the problem worse? Which ones are just silly or funny but not useful? Which ones have you tried already? Which ones would they be really willing to try for a few days to see how effective they are?
- During conflicts, people feel threatened in some way. The threat may not be real, but it feels very real to them. This is why conflicts are far more than just a simple disagreement to which we could agree to disagree and move on. If your child is having a really strong emotional response to an argument, try and work out what threat they perceive. The Neuroleadership Institute has come up with the acronym S.C.A.R.F. which is a really useful one to keep in mind to work out the way in which your child (or any person) is sensing threat. The threats can be to a person’s status (S) and sense of importance; it can be a threat to their sense of certainty (C) if things seem unpredictable or changing too fast; it may be a threat to their sense of autonomy (A) which means their sense of control; it could be a threat to a relationship (R) such as feeling left out or that someone else is liked or loved more, or a threat to their sense of fairness (F)
- In any conflict situation, no resolution can be reached until the two sides can at least see the other person’s point of view, so we need to encourage empathy. When we have empathy for another person, we can step into their shoes for a short while and imagine the issue from their perspective. Again, you can practice this by talking about the feelings of characters in films and stories and can encourage it between your children by talking about past events and how their brother or sister might have felt in that situation.
- As in all situations in which emotions are running high, there is very little point trying to have reasoned, rational conversations in the heat of the moment. Remember that the skills of conflict resolution are part of our lifelong learning. If you doubt this, look around at the adults you know and see how badly they often resolve their own disagreements. Teach your children to actively look for solutions and to keep the other person’s point of view in mind alongside their own. If they are too angry or sad to discuss it at the time, review it after the event so that they can still learn from it. Gradually and steadily their ability to understand, resolve and learn from conflict will develop and mature.
I would suggest that you also read the following article which was published with this one:
Previously published in the Croydon Advertiser on 14th June 2013