Do you run from conflict? Do you embrace it? Learning conflict resolution skills can set your child up for success in friendships, academics, sport, the workplace, relationships, and even their future parenting! So how do we do help them develop these skills?
Without judgment, let’s imagine a common scenario in which we’ve all either been involved or observed.
Two-year-old boys are playing with some toys and, naturally, they both become fixated on one in particular. They scream, “It’s mine!” simultaneously, and push each other. The one boy’s dad gets angry at his son for behaving like this, and sternly remarks, “No, you do NOT do this, you WILL share.” The other boy’s mom grabs her son’s arm and says, “No hitting! Say SORRY!”
These gut reactions from the parents are so common. Over the years we develop expectations and social contracts that we feel compelled to enforce, especially in public. But are these responses really cultivating the long-term characteristics that we want our children to possess? Was the conflict resolved? Are either boys feeling remorseful? Are they more likely to share in the future?
So, what is the alternative?
First validate feelings:
“You both want the same toy, it’s hard to share!”
“You’re so angry that you felt like you wanted to hit.”
Only once the children are clear about the problem and how they feel will they be receptive to finding a solution.
“Let’s find something else to play with until the other child is done.”
“I have a timer, should we take turns?”
Below is a 10 step “cheat sheet” to help you navigate multiple scenarios.
Of course, these skills take time to teach and to learn, but over time the script becomes less forced, and the words come naturally. The idea of a toddler calmly resolving conflict without adult intervention can seem like a pipe dream, but it is both doable, and wonderfully fulfilling to witness!
Many of us felt that when we woke up on the first of January, somehow a magical reset button would have erased all of the fears and uncertainties of 2020.
And yet here we are, in the middle of a second wave of COVID-19 and all predictability has once again flown out the window.
So, what can we do? What is our next step? How do we find a semblance of control? One way is to find one thing on which to focus.
It might be helpful to think of the current environment much like a thunderstorm. We have no way to control the speed of the wind, or the amount of rain, or where the lightning will strike.
We can allow the fear to overwhelm us. We can feel powerless. We can paralyse ourselves with pessimism.
Or we can choose to focus on what we can control. We can close the windows, shut the doors, place a bucket below the leaking roof, turn the electricity off to protect appliances and enjoy the beauty of candlelight.
COVID has provided us with the same opportunity to focus on the fatalities, the uncertainty. Blame is spreading faster than the virus, when we should be focusing on unity more than ever. We can find support in our solitude, empathy in our grief.
So as we begin the year, invest your energy and focus in things that invite joy into your life. Kindness, gratitude, love, family, time with your child. When we choose to focus our energy in these areas, somehow the darkness of the pandemic seems a little lighter, much like the flickering candle brightens the storm.
My favourite thing about school holidays is not having to rush the morning routine. It seems as though simple activities such as teeth brushing and face washing become exponentially harder when there is a time limit!
When school starts up again, the transition from more relaxed routines to early mornings and added time pressure can pose various challenges. A common struggle is gaining cooperation, even with the simplest tasks. Parents sometimes get stuck nagging or using threats in order to get our children to get the job done. And although sometimes these methods work, we’re often left feeling frustrated or deflated.
Another option is to use play to achieve the same results, while fostering a more positive emotional atmosphere. Children love to feel knowledgeable, so one game is to play “the incompetent fool”. This puts them in the position to teach you how to perform a task in a fun way, while simultaneously carrying out the task they need to do.
For example, you can put toothpaste on the wrong side of the brush, and then start to brush your forehead. Your child will no doubt laugh and tell you how ridiculously wrong you are. This is when you can playfully challenge them by saying, “Don’t laugh! Of course I’m doing it right! I bet you can’t show be a better way!” They will be more than happy to show you the proper way to brush teeth. Keep the game going by turning the toothbrush upside down or pretending to brush the back of your head. Your child’s laughter and cooperation will help you get you through the most objectionable activities, without any added stress.