Conflict is normal in any family. In fact, when handled correctly, it’s even healthy. The differences in personality and perspective that drive conflict can develop maturity, empathy, and gratitude that will make your bond as a family stronger. Of course, handled poorly, it can be as damaging as it is beneficial.
The heart of healthy conflict resolution at home always starts with the parents. Fathers are crucial to exhibit and educate their kids on how problems should be addressed and resolved. Just as there are unique and irreplaceable gifts, only mothers can bring to the family, so there are impressions and influences that only a father can make in his children’s life. This makes your teamwork with your spouse so powerful and consequential that you’ll want to be intentional in how you’re dealing with conflicts first in your marriage and next in your parenthood.
Focus First on Yourselves
There’s no way you’ll be effective unless you do exactly what you preach to your children. Young ones are speedy to adapt behavior from you even without you noticing it. What they see you do at home will be the exact speech and actions that they’ll consider acceptable for them to perform. Correcting this behavior by telling them ‘no’ is also not going to work unless you stop doing it first.
Following this principle, it’s easy to determine what should start, stop, and continue in the way you currently handle conflict with your spouse. It’s not so much about your children never hearing you argue as it is about them hearing you apologize afterward. The goal isn’t to act like you can devoid yourself of emotions or pretend you’re not affected. You’ll want to show that you’re capable of emotional management and how to communicate that with your spouse peacefully to reach a solution.
Apart from setting the right example, you’re also preventing your children from developing insecurities they can carry into adulthood. Parents who don’t get along rob their kids of the security they should feel in their homes, and a myriad of after-effects can result from this, such as running away and developing bad habits.
That said, you don’t need to have perfect conflict resolution and communication skills to start educating your children. Grow together as a family, and take the daring role of a leader in this endeavor. A strong father figure is essential in giving boys a role model and girls a standard of how men should treat them.
Stick to the Fundamentals
Different families will employ different methods of teaching conflict resolution. That’s okay, as parents have a mix of values that complement their lifestyle, religious beliefs, and disciplinary methods. The fundamentals must remain the same, however, for them to be effective.
Even when you and your spouse have agreed on a method, you have to remember that this takes time, patience, and practice for everybody to develop and execute well. If you feel that you’re getting nowhere, don’t hesitate to get family counseling to address communication issues you can’t work out within yourselves. Needing expert intervention is never something to be ashamed of. If anything, you should be proud that you’re making an effort to really connect with your family.
Here are fundamentals that you can use as a guide for those who are just beginning to develop their method of teaching conflict resolution.
1. Spot The Conflict
Your children will not always bring you their problem to resolve. They’ll show signs that they have a disagreement with a sibling or with your spouse, but it’s unlikely that young ones can verbally express the conflict outright. You need to develop an awareness about how your children show distress. You may also hear about the issue from your spouse or their friends. By stepping up and acknowledging the problem yourself, your child can do the same and be more open to making amends.
Go down to your children’s height or have everybody sit in the living room. Lean in and show them that you’re listening. Body language speaks volumes, and you can use that to your advantage. A child is always more willing to be vulnerable when they’re sure that you care. Another way you can connect is to repeat your kid’s story or statement in your own words so that they’re sure you understand.
3. Let Them Think for Themselves
Imposing your ideas on them doesn’t give them the chance to develop their problem-solving skills. Guide the conversation and remind them that fairness is key. When they’re forced to come up with a fair compromise themselves, they’re likely to learn important lessons by heart.
4. Assist Like a Mediator
Remember that unless you’re directly involved in the conflict, you’ll want to remain a third-party mediator in ensuring that they follow through with the resolution. Be there to remind them of the agreement they’ve set and be gentle, never imposing.
Perfection isn’t the answer. Its consistency. The more you do the right thing and help each other persist with the right behavior, the better your chances of succeeding in building a family that can address conflicts constructively.