Conflict resolution is a very important life skill. It takes courage and practice, but the effort invested now will reap stronger relationships in the future.
Here are some guidelines on how to coach children in this area.
1. Explain why conflicts arise
Start off with why conflicts happen. Conflict is a very natural part of being human and it usually arises because of two reasons. One, humans are imperfect, and two, we are different — in how we see things, how we do things, and how we communicate.
Get close enough to someone, and you will begin to see imperfections. Not just physical imperfections, but you will notice funny habits that can be annoying, or you may disagree on some things.
Conflicts can arise from anything — from small differences, such as the way you squeeze the toothpaste, to more serious issues like the way a married couple handles finances. They can also be caused by miscommunication, a lack of communication, or when one person does something that hurts the other.
2. Explain the value of conflict
Then, let them know that conflict is not necessarily a bad thing. It gives us an opportunity to work through differences and grow closer in our relationships, as we learn to overlook the little imperfections and love someone for both the good and the not-so-good parts.
That’s what true love is. It also helps us learn how to compromise and solve problems through negotiation and creativity.
Read also: 6 Empowering Lessons to Teach Your Children
3. Explain how we can resolve conflicts
Whenever possible, talk about ways to resolve conflicts calmly and give your child some ideas on how to work through conflicts.
- Take time to calm down. When a conflict occurs, emotions usually run high and it is common to resort to using hurtful words. Take some time to cool down, or physically remove yourself from the situation and think things through.
- Reflect on your actions. In a conflict, it is very natural to put the blame on others and think that the other party is at fault. Before approaching others with a list of their faults and shortcomings, face up to your own. Just as how it takes two hands to clap, it also takes two hands to fight. Try to think of any way you might have contributed to the problem, and acknowledge it.
- Talk things out. When faced with conflicts, some may choose to run away and give the other party the “silent treatment”, while others attack with harsh words or actions. Neither of these approaches is helpful. Instead, it is best to go directly to the person and talk things out.
4. Model how to resolve a conflict
If you and your spouse have a disagreement to sort out, remember that it could well be the perfect time to model conflict resolution for your children. It may be difficult to do this when both parties are emotionally-charged, but take time to cool down and meet at an appropriate juncture.
Remember to teach and show your children how to:
- Admit what you have done wrong, and be sincere in your apology.
- Listen carefully. Just as you want the other person to listen attentively as you share your feelings, listen to the other person’s perspective too. Don’t fold your arms or look away; listen to the other person without interrupting.
- Forgive each other and learn to let go of the issue.
- Learn from the situation. Discuss with your spouse or your kids on what can be done differently in the future to prevent a similar situation. Remind them that a good peacemaker learns to weigh his words carefully. Because once negative or hurtful words are spoken, they can never really be taken back.
You can also encourage your children to try and resolve any disagreements on their own first, instead of running for help automatically. However, assure them that they can come to you or a trusted teacher if they need any advice or are facing difficulties.
Written by June Yong.
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