Everyone likes to win. I do. You do. Your children do, too.
And you like it when your children win. Unless you are the adversary. Then you may be more than tempted to use all the tools you have to triumph over them. You have a louder voice, more sophisticated words, a bigger body, and more control. The money, car, and house are all in your control.
Let’s face it, when it comes to fighting with your kids you are not on a level playing field. Not at all.
And like any person who has the power stacked against them, kids will fight dirty. At some point nearly every kid will sneak and lie, hit and yell, whine and coerce. They’ll pick on someone weaker to get what they want. They’ll drive you crazy. You’ll wonder what you did wrong.
Most parents these days want to know “How can I win without breaking my kid’s spirit?”
I’m going to let you in on a secret.
In a win-lose game, someone is going to win and someone is going to feel like a loser. The problem is, when you’re in a win-lose game with your kids, everyone loses.
When parents win and kids lose, parents feel guilty and kids lose a sense of power and pride. Everyone loses.
When kids win and parents lose, parents feel manipulated and resentful. When kids rule the home they may be happy in the moment, but in the long-term they lose trust in their parents ability to guide them. Everyone loses.
I’m going to let you in on another secret. Fights and disagreements are doorways and windows into deeper connection. Even the most conflict avoidant parent can use the following tools to learn to step in to connection.
5 Tools to Turn Conflict into Connection
1. Inner Empathy
What can it do for me? Stop fighting with yourself and your kids. Through this technique for deep listening and compassion, you learn to be effective, efficient, and deeply loving. Inner Empathy can help you in a wide variety of challenging situations including parenting, relationships, and business.
What is it? A talk therapy tool combining Nonviolent Communication and parts work developed by Jerry Donoghue.
How do I get started? A skilled coach can meet with you and guide you through the process. Once you are skilled with the process you can meet with others to trade sessions for free or facilitate yourself through the process.
2. Restorative Practices
What can they do for me? Bring all the parties of a conflict together in a way that makes it possible for them to hear one another and to restore justice, humanity, and trust in one another.
What are they? There are many variations of these systemic dialogue processes which bring together all involved parties in a voluntary way to speak about how they were impacted, what they wanted, and what they want now.
How do I get started? Hold a family meeting and commit to listening to one another. Let each person talk until they are finished, reflect what you hear, and look for heart opening action steps.
3. Nonviolent Communication (NVC)
What can it do for me? Using the language of feelings and needs, you are able to more clearly understand yourself and communicate your reality to others. You stop fighting about strategies and connect to the basic human needs that are true for you and your children.
What is it? NVC is a tool of deep listening and compassion. It focuses on clarifying and communicating observations, feelings, needs, and requests.
How do I get started? You can read the book Nonviolent Communication: A Language of Life by Marshall Rosenberg.
4. Mediated Conversations
What can they do for me? A neutral mediator can help communication happen more fully and open the way for creative solutions and the rebuilding of trust.
What are they? Any conversation where you invite in a 3rd party to help two people or two sides of a disagreement understand one another better.
How do I get started? Ask the person you’re in conflict with to talk to you with a neutral mediator. You could ask a therapist, parent coach, friend, or other family member to serve in the roll of mediator.
What does it do? Self care allows you to hear your intuition and inner voice. All these other tools get supercharged when you know yourself, understand your own triggers, and can articulate how you’re feeling.
What is it? Dance. Yoga. Journal. Meditate. Go for walks. Connect to the land. The variety of ways to connect to your own inner voice and inner guidance are limited only by your imagination and temperament. Experiment and have fun!
What do I need to get started? Willingness. More than any other tool, self-care requires your willingness. No one else is going to make you do it. Try this: commit to journaling for 10 minutes every day.
Try these tools gently and with a playful energy. They will feel awkward at first, like learning to ride a bike. With support and practice you’ll experience how you too can turn conflicts into opportunities for deeper understanding and connection.
[About the author: Kassandra Brown is the mother of two young girls, a mompreneur, and parent coach at parentcoaching.org. She lives and works at Dancing Rabbit Ecovillage in rural Missouri.]