The De-Escalator

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.

Many blessings,



6 thoughts on “The De-Escalator

  1. this makes a lot of sense on paper, but can be so hard in the heat of the moment. We have been in a war zone with my 10 year old son and his 8 year old sister. He harasses, she responds by screaming! This goes on all day every day and some times in their sleep:) I go back and forth between ignoring and lecturing and I can see they are both fustrated by my response but I am not sure what else I can provide. I am worn down by it and they seem to do it now out of habit. Any advice?

    • Heather,
      My answer is probably going to be totally frustrating to you, so for that I am sorry! I would say that their day needs to be much more scheduled at this point – they need to be with you doing, doing, doing. Projects, hikes as a family, helping prepare and cook foods, cleaning and doing household work, etc. and unfortunately you will have to be with them to help them stop this cycle. It sounds too, as if your ten year old little guy could use some serious physical work – what is he doing around the house that just wouldn’t happen if he was not there? I think also with an eight and ten year old you can have a family meeting over dinner and really stress that we don’t talk to each other in this way, and that if we can’t be nice to each other at home then we certainly can’t go out and spread that ugliness into the world. 🙂 It is not a punishment, it just is, because in our family we don’t treat each other like that. Words hurt just as much as physical blows. 🙂
      Oy vey.
      Please do take what resonates with you.
      Sending you smiles and warm wishes,

  2. I really appreciate you sharing this approach and think the statements are very true. Can you give a few practical examples of this put into action? Maybe some with younger children and some with kids 8-12? I always find ideas that seem brilliant, but struggle on practical implementation. Thanks so much for your insightful and love filled blog. It has been exactly what I needed to hear at the right time and I feel it is a gift from God!

    • It is easier if you give me examples from your life..depersonalize them a bit and email them to me (address at the end of the About Page)..I am happy to write a follow-up!

  3. What great advice. It’s funny (or not) but I know when they are busy or with me it happens much less. I joke that I hear the screaming when I leave the room. Our daily schedule has changed a bit since homeschooling has stopped and that is probably what I need to work on. Thank you so much. In an unrelated topic, I graduated from UNF in 1991 small world.

    • Heather – How awesome to have another UNF grad here! We always say we would gladly head back to Jacksonsville. 🙂

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