One of the few things every single human has in common is dealing with conflict. Regardless of your age, income, or family situation, there is bound to be conflict on a semi-regular basis as people come together. This can be a good thing, as it forces people to get outside of themselves and work toward a compromise, but it must be handled well so it does not spiral out of control. By teaching your child these ABC’s of healthy conflict resolution while they are still at home, you give them a safe place to discover compromise, healthy and respectful expression of emotion, and working with others toward a common goal.
A — Ask questions
When people fight, it is easy to just assume what the other person wants or what they are really trying to say. The best course of action, however, is to ask questions to make sure you understand them. You may not disagree as much as you think! Conflict is much easier to resolve when you take the time to really understand the other person’s perspective. Teach them how to ask questions like “I heard you say this, which I think means that, is that right?” Show them how to ask questions about perspective and what happened by modeling it for them. When they have a conflict, ask questions like “What did that make you feel?”
B — Be open minded
Make sure your end goal is resolution of the conflict, not just “winning.” When we go into a conflict just trying to prove we are right, it goes from being about whatever the original topic was to being about feeding our ego. When you stay open minded, and are willing to find common ground, it is a lot easier to reach an end that is good for everyone involved. Keep the focus on finding a solution that works for everyone, not on proving who’s right.
C — Calmness is key
Make sure your child knows not to let anger, sadness, or fear get the best of them! When they experience a conflict, whether with a peer or an authority figure, it is important to stay calm and respectful. Teach them strategies to stay calm in the midst of stress, such as deep breaths or counting to ten, and remind them the other person probably feels just as angry, sad, or afraid, so letting feelings take control will just make it worse. Try to help them identify different emotions and express them in a calm, healthy way, so they know how to say “This really frustrated me” instead of yelling or saying mean things.
Work with your child on these ABC’s, and consider putting them up somewhere in your home where they can see them regularly! With these tips, your child will be ready to face the conflicts that come up in their lives in a healthy, kind, and respectful way.