Do you frequently come into a situation in your home in which a conflict needs to be worked out? (Uh, every parent on the planet nods their head here). Okay, so then do you typically escalate the situation or do you de-escalate it?
I ask this because many times we are in the midst of a situation in which our children require our guidance, and we think we are offering guidance, but we are doing it in the heat of the moment and in such a way that most likely all the child will remember afterwards is not the situation, not the “lesson” to be learned, but the way you made him or her feel. Remember, you cannot guide the situation or have the child learn anything from the situation if everyone is crying, screaming, yelling or hitting. You really have to wait until things calm down until you can guide. And then the piece after that is in the activity of doing, of restitution. Save the lecture! Work on the doing!
This is also true in any relationship where there is a conflict. I remember finding this 45 record (remember those from oh so long ago?) amongst my mother’s things – The Beatles’ “We Can Work It Out.” Here it is to get you in the mood for some conflict resolution:
Love this, and what a timely reminder in conflict. This phrase also happens to be the title of a nifty little NonViolent Communication book entitled (yes!): “We Can Work It Out: Resolving Conflicts Peacefully and Powerfully: A presentation of Nonvionent Communication ideas, and their use” by Marshall B Rosenberg, PhD. This little booklet is only about 22 pages long, but I think it is very valuable in helping decipher what to do in conflict.
The minute we start thinking, “Well, the problem with my child is that they won’t do “X”” that is really not expressing what we NEED. We also do this with our spouses as well: “Well, if my husband didn’t do “X” everything would be fine.” I find that often mothers don’t really know what they need, but they sure know what they don’t like when they see it. However, in order to have someone help you get what you want, you have to know what you need.
Dr. Rosenburg has a wonderful sentence in this book: “At the point where either party hears themselves being criticized, diagnosed, or intellectually interpreted, I predict their energy will turn toward self-defense and counter-accusations rather than toward resolutions that meet everyone’s needs.”
So, I think if you can define what you DO want, and then think of a strategy that meets what your need is, then you have a much better chance at guiding your child.
The other part that can be very challenging but necessary in parenting is what Dr. Rosenburg calls “sensing the needs of others regardless of how others are expressing themselves.’
This is very hard with children if they are yelling or hitting or screaming. But they are telling you something with this behavior if you can look underneath all that and then try to meet that need that they are showing you. They need action from you, not a lot of words or questioning.
So, when you walk into a situation that requires conflict resolution, a situation that requires you to be “The De-Escalator”, know that you can do this. Children and family members give us the chance to practice this every day.