Tag Archive for disagreement

Benefits of Family Celebration

Healthy families celebrate. They need to celebrate. Celebration creates even healthier families. How does celebration build a healthier family? “Let me count the ways.”

  1. Celebration fosters an abundant family life filled with joy. It’s just plain fun! And fun adds abundance and vitality to life.
  2. Celebration helps families balance their approach to one another and life. Celebrating families learn to not take themselves or one another too seriously. It frees them to experiment with new activities, to explore the world around them and learn about themselves and one another.
  3. Celebration enhances and restores intimacy in your family. Celebration helps us set aside disagreements for a time. It lets us have an experience of joy with the one who disagreed with us. Those who disagreed find themselves in harmony as they celebrate together. They discover a basis on which to restore the intimacy of their relationship, even though they might disagree. Plato reportedly said, “You can learn more about a person in an hour of play than in an hour of conversation.” I think it’s true for celebration as well as play.  Try it out and see if you agree.
  4. Celebration refreshes our perspective of other family members. While we will likely encounter frustrating interactions with family members, celebration teaches us that the same person can laugh. They have an inner playfulness. We learn a whole new side of the people with whom we celebrate. We learn that we celebrate similar things even though we might have disagreements in other areas. We can disagree and celebrate. We can disagree and live at peace. We can disagree and love.
  5. Celebration will energize your family. It culminates in a renewed vitality for life. When we celebrate accomplishments, relationships, or effort, we encourage continued effort. The celebration of effort and achievements revitalizes the desire to keep trying and do more. Why? We all enjoy being recognized and acknowledged.
  6. Celebration reveals and strengthens your family’s priorities and values. We celebrate those things we value. And, we engage in those things we celebrate most often. Celebration will increase behaviors that match your priorities.
  7. Celebration creates an upward spiral of positive experiences and joy for your family. It reinforces the priorities, encourages repeating the priorities, and increases the joy of celebrating those priorities. Celebration will help drive your family toward a future of more success and joy. Who wouldn’t want to do the right thing when you know it will be acknowledged and celebrated?

Yes, healthy families celebrate. Celebration creates an even healthier family. Why not start celebrating your family today?

Encouraging Your Teen to Talk with You

Teens are notoriously secretive. But, your actions will encourage or minimize their secretiveness. It’s true. You can take certain actions that will encourage your teen to talk with you. In fact, put these five actions into practice to increase your teen desire to talk with you.

  1. Listen. Perhaps the greatest gift you can give your teen (or anyone for that matter) is the gift of truly listening. Listen with your ears to hear the words. Listen with your eyes to hear the body language. Listen with your heart to hear the emotions that lay beneath the surface. Listen intently to understand. Listen with the goal of understanding to the point of emotional connection. Don’t worry about an answer. Just LISTEN.
  2. Ask more than tell. Part of listening well is asking questions. Ask questions to assure you understand what your teen means to say. Then, ask questions that can prompt your teen to think about situations and circumstances in new ways. Ask questions to determine what they already know; and, ask questions to help them delve more deeply into areas in which they are gaining knowledge and experience. They will learn more if given the opportunity to think and process than from a lecture or explanation.
  3. Give them space to grow. Your teen is becoming an individual with his own personality, desires, goals, and values. He needs space to go through this stage successfully. He needs opportunity for self-reflection and exploration. He needs the freedom to talk with other people—peers and other trusted adults. Give him the space and freedom to do so. And create an environment where your teen has the opportunity to talk with you, where talking to you comes naturally. For instance, create a calm and enjoyable family dinner time, create opportunities for family activities, and create times in which you are together in nonthreatening situations such as driving to and from practices. In these nonthreatening environments, your teen has the opportunity to talk. When he does, refer to bullets number one and two.
  4. Accept disagreement. Your teen is developing her own mind, her own personality, her own perspective. Allow her to disagree with you on certain topics. In the long run, she can disagree on how to take out the garbage or comb her hair. She can even disagree with you in her political views. She can have different interests and perspectives. After all, you have spent years encouraging her to become “her own person,” encourage her to do so now by leaving room for disagreement.
  5. Stay open and accept moments of silence. Teens naturally go through periods of silence with their parents. Accept it; BUT, stay open for moments when they choose to talk. If they know you are available they will choose to talk with you…and they often want to at what we perceive as the most inopportune moments. They need to know you value them above whatever else may be important to you. So, when they choose to talk with you, enjoy the moment. Put down the paper. Turn down the TV. Pause the game. They are more important. Give them your full attention and listen.

Practicing these five tips will encourage more conversation between your teen and you. You will enjoy the opportunity of a growing relationship with your teen!

Arguing With Your Spouse: A Pain in the Back…or Worse!

The University of CA (Berkeley) and Northwestern University recently published the results of a study following 156 heterosexual couples for 20 years. The authors examined how the couple’s way of managing “conflict conversations” impacted their health over time. They found a link between “stonewalling” (which includes barely speaking, little to no eye contact, emotionally shutting down) and back pain. They also found angry outbursts were associated with cardiovascular problems. Let me repeat those results so you don’t miss it.  Pointing fingers at each other

  • The emotional withdrawal of “shut up and put up” is a pain in the back. It may contribute to backaches, stiff necks, stiff joints, and muscle tension over time.
  • On the other hand, flying off the handle with angry outbursts can break your heart. It may contribute to chest pain, high blood pressure, and other cardiovascular problems over time.

I don’t know about you, but I don’t want my marriage to be “a pain in the back” or a “broken heart!”  So, what can we do when we disagree or argue to prevent this?

  • Remember your love for your spouse. Recall attributes and character traits you adore about your spouse. Keep your gratitude for your spouse’s positive contributions to your life in the forefront of your mind.(Read The Killer Wall in Your Marriage for more info)
  • Listen intently for the sole purpose of understanding your spouse. Your differences of opinion open the door for you to know our spouse more intimately. Your spouse becomes an open book voicing her opinion, thoughts, and desires. Listen carefully. You will learn a lot and grow more intimate as you listen with the sole intent of understanding your spouse. (Read Go Ahead & Argue With Honor for more)
  • Postpone your own agenda until your spouse feels emotionally validated and understood. Don’t even try to explain your side of the situation until you can restate what your spouse has said and your spouse responds with “Yes. You got it. Now you know how I feel!” (For more read Make Your Argument the Best Part of Your Day)
  • Breathe to stay calm. Men, especially, have a tendency to move into a fight or flight mode during disagreements. When you reach this point, you no longer think rationally. You simply defend, fight to win, or run. Breathing can help you stay calm, rational, able to listen, and compromise. Breathe.
  • Soothe your spouse, as well. Be aware of your spouse’s sensitivities and don’t push her buttons. Respond in love by respecting your spouse’s vulnerabilities. If you notice you or your spouse “losing your cool,” take a break, express some affection, or tell a joke—anything to help restore a sense of calm to both you and your spouse.
  • Allow your spouse to influence you. Sometimes your spouse may make a good point (I know, it’s surprising). Sometimes your spouse may actually be right! Sometimes they may simply have a different opinion than you…and neither of you are wrong. Enjoy the difference. Remain humble enough to admit his/her wisdom. Allow his/her opinion to influence your responses and actions. Doing so expresses love.

Follow these 6 tips and your marriage will not become a pain in the back, nor will it break your heart.

Avoid 5 Practices to Have a Successful Family Conflict

Yes, you can have a successful family conflict! Successful conflict increases mutual understanding and intimacy. It draws families closer together. Conflict also reveals ways to help your family grow stronger. Conflict can do this and more if we avoid five practices. If Pointing fingers at each otheryou let these five practices sneak into your family conflict, misunderstandings increase. Anger grows. Intimacy diminishes. Joy dwindles. What five practices interfere with a successful conflict? Let me share them here.

  • Mind-reading interferes with successful conflict. Mind reading occurs when one person assumes to know what the other person thinks or intends by their actions or words. A person who mind reads assumes to know the motives of the other person. Mind reading implies that “I know your thoughts, intents, and motives better than you know them yourself.” When a person practices mind reading, he passes up the opportunity to truly understand what the other person means, intends, and believes. He increases the chances of misunderstanding the other person’s motives. Instead of mind reading, ask questions. Seek to understand what the other person means and intends by their statement.
  • Labeling interferes with successful conflict. Labeling involves name-calling. It can be as subtle as “You’re irrational” or as direct as “You’re an idiot!” Labeling, name-calling, will obviously interferes with a successful conflict. Name-calling hurts. It arouses the other person’s defensiveness. It passes judgment on the other person. It implies the conflict cannot be successfully resolves since the other person is “an idiot,” a “jerk,” or…you fill in the blank. Instead of labeling and name-calling, practice kindness in the midst of conflict. Take the time to remember the other person’s positive qualities.
  • Blaming interferes with successful conflict. Sometimes people blame directly. “It’s your fault!” Sometimes we use a more subtle form of blaming, “You-tooing.” “I may have left the dishes out, but you….” “Well even if I did break the dish what does it matter? You have broken lots of dishes in the past!” By blaming we avoid responsibility. We avoid looking at our own contribution to the situation. We “pass the buck.” The person we have a conflict with is more likely to take responsibility for his role in the conflict if we willingly take responsibility for our role in the conflict. Instead of blaming, accept responsibility. Apologize as needed. Take the log out of your own eye and state what you will do differently to resolve this conflict.
  • kids arguing 5 and 6 years oldKitchen-sinking also interferes with successful conflict. Kitchen-sinking is throwing every past conflict and frustration into the sink when you are discussing one dirty dish. You’ve had the kitchen-sink experience. You and your spouse begin to argue about a single incident but, as the argument progresses, you both bring up “the time you forgot to put the gas in the car” or “the time you yelled at me for no reason” or “the time you went out with the guys instead of watching a movie with me” or…you get the idea. I’ve heard couples bring up things that happened 20 years ago when they begin to argue about a specific incident that occurred yesterday. Kitchen-sinking prevents you from resolving anything. Stop kitchen-sinking. Instead, deal with one incident at a time. Love does not keep a record of wrongs. So, once you resolve an incident put it to rest. No need to beat a dead horse. Resolve it and let it go.
  • Generalizing interferes with successful conflict. We generalize with words like “always” and “never.” “You never listen to me.” “You always get your way.” Such generalization increase defensiveness. The other person feels the need to “prove” the generalization wrong. The conflict becomes a surface battle of events rather than the deeper dialogue of resolving hurt feelings and emotional disconnection. Instead of making broad generalizations, stop to think of exceptions. Consider times that counter the generalization. Instead of making broad generalizations, deal with the incident at hand…no more, no less. It is not an issue of “always” or “never” but an issue of “today” and “this time.”

Avoiding these five practices will help you experience the true joys of a successful family conflict.

A Baker’s Dozen to Show Grace in Troubled Relationships

John Gottman believes “91% of the time the ground is ripe for miscommunications” in a marriage. I don’t know about the percentage, but I know conflict and misunderstandings arise in every family. It is inevitable. But, have you notice that family conflict can go from familysunheartbad to worse in no time? Grace gets thrown out the window and everyone involved begins to respond with anger, blame, accusations, and defensiveness. These responses lead to more anger, blame, accusations, and defensiveness. They may even result in withdrawal from the relationship and the death of a family. How can you avoid this terrible end? Respond with grace. Grace is an unmerited kindness, a favor given to someone even if they do not deserve it. When at least one person responds with grace, the outcome of the interaction will change. The people involved in the argument have a greater chance of connecting rather than pushing one another away. The argument has a greater chance of reaching a resolution. Let me share a baker’s dozen for responding with grace in the midst of troubled family relationships.

  • Rather than blaming the other person, look at your own contribution to the current situation (the log in your own eye).
  • Rather than making accusations, accept responsibility for your own actions and your own limited understanding.
  • Rather than responding with defensiveness, respond with curiosity about the feelings and emotions of the other person.
  • Rather than shutting down, communicate with the other person.
  • Rather than arguing and fighting, share a friendly conversation about something that interests the other person. If some topics lead to arguments, table them for another time.
  • Rather than assuming negative intent about the other person and their actions, look for the times they showed love. Assume positive intent—even in seemingly negative behavior.
  • Rather than trying to control the situation or the other person, pursue an understanding of the other person.
  • Rather than focus on the negative you perceive in the other, focus on what you admire and adore in them.
  • Rather than trying to make the other person change or “grow,” focus on your personal growth. You are only responsible for your personal growth.
  • Rather than criticizing and making accusations about the other person’s past or character, practice kindness…and give a blessing (1 Peter 3:9).
  • Rather than making assumptions about the other person’s motives or intents, believe the best and simply ask what the other person wants.
  • Rather than speaking in sarcasm, speak in patience and love.
  • Rather than taking responsibility for the other person’s thoughts, feelings, and decision, take responsibility for yourself. You cannot make the other person happy—that is their personal responsibility. You cannot make decisions for the other person or determine how they will live—that is their personal responsibility. Let the other person take their responsibility and you take your responsibility.

 

Responding with grace in the midst of troubled family relationships will change, filling you with greater character and personal strength. It will change your relationship as well, filling it with greater joy and intimacy.

A Great Way to Win an Argument

If you have been married for any length of time, you know that arguments happen. If you have ever parented a teen, you definitely know that arguments happen. And arguments kids arguing 5 and 6 years oldescalate. Each person conspires to make the other person understand “what I’m saying.” Defensiveness increases. Voices get louder. Heart rates begin to increase. Breathing accelerates. Many people find their jaw tightening. Other body muscles begin to tighten. Each person becomes determined to prove “my position” and “defeat” the other person’s position. In other words, the argument is no longer about resolution. The body has moved into a fight or flight response. Each person is either looking to fight and win or shut down and escape. Neither choice helps resolve the disagreement. But, there is a way to win this argument. That’s right. Here is a technique you can use to win an argument, even after it has gotten to the level of “fight or flight.” This solution will sound counterintuitive, but it is the best move to make. The move…? Take a thirty minute break! I told you it sounds counterintuitive. But, it is true. The best way to resolve the disagreement and win the argument is to take a break. Dr. John Gottman wrote about this idea in his book, The Seven Principles for Making Marriage Work. “In one of my experiments,” he noted, “we interrupted couples after 15 minutes [of arguing] and told them we needed to adjust the equipment. We asked them not to talk about their issue, but just to read magazines for half an hour. When they started talking about their issue again, their heart rates were significantly lower and their interaction more productive.” In other words, a thirty minute break in which both parties focused on something other than the argument, helped them calm down. Their heart rate returned to normal. Their breathing returned to normal. The stress hormones pulsing through their veins decreased. As a result, they could think more clearly. It was no longer about survival. It was about resolution. They could think about their partner and what was best for their relationship instead of focusing on defending themselves. They could listen better…and understand. So, next time you find yourself in an argument with a family member that seems like it is going nowhere, take a break. In fact, take a thirty minute break and focus on something else. Then, come back, discuss the disagreement, and search for a resolution.

Quit Taking Your Spouse’s Perspective

Who should you think about during an argument with your spouse—me, you, I, us??? That is a good question. We have probably all heard the advice to step back and see our spouse’s Pointing fingers at each otherpoint of view during an argument. This common wisdom advises us to see things through the other person’s eyes and walk a mile in his or her shoes. When you do, the advice-giver explains, you will feel less upset. Your understanding will improve. You will more quickly resolve the conflict…so the advice goes.  However, recent research suggests this folk wisdom may be wrong! In fact, a study of 111 couples found that taking the other person’s perspective actually made things worse, especially for those with a “less-than-positive sense of self-worth.” Now, let’s face it…in the midst of a fight with our spouse you can bet that at least one person is experiencing a “less-than-positive sense of self-worth.” Anyway, it seems that when a person looks at the conflict from his spouse’s perspective, he begins to wonder what they are thinking or feeling about him. In other words, when I look through my spouse’s eyes I see myself…and begin to wonder what she is thinking about me in the midst of the conflict. Thoughts I imagine my spouse having about me take up my mental energy and focus. “She’s blaming me!” “He thinks I don’t care.” “She’s angry about my work.” “She doesn’t believe I’m trying my hardest.” These thoughts and thoughts like them increase our self-doubt and decrease our sense of self-worth. When the argument is over, the person who looked at things through his spouse’s eyes feels even less satisfied and more insecure in their relationship.

 

Instead of trying to see the conflict from your spouse’s point of view, take a more objective approach with these two suggestions.

  1. Imagine how you would feel in a similar situation. This is different than seeing things from your spouse’s perspective. Rather than imagining how your spouse feels or how your spouse thinks about this conflict, imagine how you would feel in a similar situation. Couples who did this showed an increase in empathy.
  2. Put on your Sherlock Holmes’s hat and get curious about your spouse. Observe your spouse’s behavior. Take the time to notice how your words, actions, and tone of voice impact them. Respectfully and lovingly modify your words and actions to elicit the most helpful response in the situation.  In other words, discuss the difficult issue using a tone of voice that will help your spouse to stay calm and words more likely to elicit a calm response. Go ahead and disagree, but use respectful words and end with a hug. You get the idea. Observe your spouse’s reaction to you and adjust your behavior accordingly.

 

Forget the folk wisdom…quit taking your spouse’s perspective. Take an objective view. Watch your spouse and work to soothe them as you imagine what you might feel in the same situation…and enjoy a “satisfying” argument.

Sibling Rivalry–The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly

Siblings argue. They have disagreements that escalate to yelling and screaming…maybe even name calling, pushing, and physical aggression. Not all sibling rivalry is bad. Some of it is good…and some is downright ugly. Take a moment to consider the good, the bad, and the ugly of sibling rivalry.

kids arguing 5 and 6 years old

Some sibling rivalry is good. As long as the argument gets resolved and the conflict does not become abusive, sibling rivalry, competition, arguments, and even minor fights can result in positive growth…especially with adult coaching. Consider some of these areas of potential growth:

  • Sibling rivalry and conflict can increase children’s self-control. In the midst of anger and frustration, siblings can learn to stay calm or walk away rather than hit and scream.
  • Sibling rivalry increases effective emotional expression. Siblings learn how to express their emotions in a way that increases the chance of being heard during a conflict.
  • Sibling rivalry teaches conflict resolution skills like listening, negotiation, and compromise.
  • Sibling rivalry accelerates the learning of social understanding—the awareness of other people’s emotions, the ability to “read” another person’s facial expressions, the knowledge of when to quit “pushing” your point and walk away, and the ability to empathize with another person’s point of view.
  • Sibling rivalry provides opportunities to learn positive problem-solving skills, skills that can lead to a “win-win” for each person involved.
  • Sibling rivalry also teaches that a person does not always get their way. As much as I hate to admit it, life is not fair. Parents strive to find fairness for their children, but sometimes it just does not happen. Sibling rivalry is one way in which children learn to cope with the minor breeches in fairness they will experience throughout life.

 

Sibling rivalry can, however, escalate to the bad category. Once sibling rivalry escalates, parents may need to become involved and teach their children the skills necessary to resolve the conflict.

  • Sibling rivalry becomes bad when the loud, intrusive, and inappropriate behavior of children in the midst of conflict begins to interfere with other people’s life or experience. For instance, children’s behavior in the midst of conflict may interfere with a parent’s desire for peace and calm in a house…or exacerbate an already aching head…or interfere with a parent’s need to complete some task. In public, sibling rivalry may create discomfort for the family or other people in close vicinity to the conflict. You can see this happen in restaurants or parks when siblings engage in loud and intrusive conflict. Public episodes of sibling rivalry can build a reputation of disrespect, selfishness, or poor emotional control. A parent can respond to public incidents of sibling rivalry by removing their children from the public forum and taking them to a more private setting. In addition, parents need to take the time to teach their children to remain aware of those around them and to consider the impact their behavior has on those around them.
  • Sibling rivalry also moves into the bad category when siblings get stuck in the same argument over and over with no apparent resolution. Parents can step into these situations and teach their children problem solving skills. Help the children learn to calm themselves, listen to one another, actively seek to understand each other, identify each other’s needs, and brainstorm mutually acceptable solutions.

 

Finally, sibling rivalry can get ugly. Parents must step in for the safety of the children involved.

  • Sibling rivalry gets ugly when it escalates to physical or verbal violence. When either sibling becomes abusive of the other, parents must get involved. To assure that all involved parties are safe, the parent may have to separate the siblings and allow them a “cooling off” period. After the siblings have cooled off, parents can bring them together and help them work to resolve the conflict. In addition, parents can set up some basic ground rules for all conflict–guidelines like no name-calling, no physical aggression, and a “hands-off” policy. Guidelines may also include knowing when to walk away and allow one another to calm down.

 

Sibling rivalry—the good, the bad and the ugly. A parent’s job is to keep sibling rivalry in the realm of “the good” as much as possible. A parent who does this will eventually enjoy the benefits of children who know how to resolve conflict, listen, negotiate, and compromise.

How to Get Fired As A Parent

Are you tired of being in the role of parent? Tired of all the decisions, responsibilities, and demands? Well, if you are tired of your role as parent, I have a plan to get you fired! That’s right—you can get fired from your role as a parent with one easy step. One step and you will have no influence with your child. One step and your child will just quit listening to you and start arguing, even rebelling. Here it easy, the one step to get you fired as a parent: 

 

Intrude into your child’s life. Make every decision for them. Communicate, directly and indirectly, all your doubts about their ability to make any kind of good decision on their own. Force your wise choices on them. If they want an orange, demand that they really want an apple. Remind them that you know what they need better than they do. If they want to hold to some crazy idea like “rap is the best music,” hassle them until they finally submit to your desired beliefs (after all, they are the right ones). Lecture them until you convince them of the wisdom and soundness of your ideas. As you put this step into action, you will get lots of practice. The more you hassle, lecture, intrude, and make every decision for your child, the more your child will rebel and do the opposite. Fortunately, their rebellion will simply allow you more opportunity to practice hassling, lecturing, and intruding. Before you know it your child will fire you. It will happen before you know…well, without you even knowing it happened. You will be so caught up in hassling, lecturing, and intruding that you won’t even realize you’ve been fired. You’ll be expending all sorts of energy on a child who has already fired you.

 

Of course, if you would rather not get fired as a parent…if you would rather have a positive influence in your child’s life…try practicing acceptance and listening. Accept that your child may have different ideas than you. Sometimes those ideas differ because they are children…they are simply the ideas of a young and less mature person. Allow them the freedom to discuss those ideas with you. Listen to their ideas. Become curious about their ideas. Explore how they came to have that idea. Help them think about the idea and help them follow it to a logical conclusion. Accepting and listening will give them the opportunity and freedom to mature and grow.

 

Sometimes your child may express an opposing idea simply to establish their own identity. They want to prove they are their own person; and, they do so by disagreeing with you. Accept their ideas and listen. Become curious about their ideas. You can still voice your disagreement. But allow them the freedom to disagree with you by voicing your disagreement politely and calmly. They will listen more readily to your explanation for your own belief when you remain polite and calm. By accepting that they may believe differently than you, you allow them the freedom to explore both ideas—your idea and their idea—rather than simply defending their own.  As they explore both ideas, they will mature and grow.

 

Whatever the reason for their disagreement, you keep your role as parent by accepting and listening. Your credibility grows steadily stronger, your authority becomes more secure, and your influence grows more compelling as you accept and listen to your child. Sure, you will still have to discipline…and when you do discipline your child will get upset. However, when they know that you also accept them and listen to them, they will become more responsive to your role as a parent…and more open to your ideas. And that is worth all the effort!

How to Win the Parent-Child Conflict

When parent-child conflicts arise (and they will!), it does no good if the child always wins and gets his way. The conflict is really not resolved if the parent pulls rank, asserts parental power, and enforces parental wishes either. Just consider how you managed your parents pulling rank and using power to make you do what they wanted. Most children resist, defy, resent, blame or lie. Children in this situation may also retaliate, court the favor of one parent over the other, become fearful of  trying anything new, grow insecure in their own ability and seek constant reassurance, or form alliances with siblings against the parents. None of these help children learn, grow, or mature. So, what can a parent do to resolve a conflict and help their child grow during parent-child conflicts arise? I’m glad you asked.

First, realize that most parent-child conflicts arise out of a conflict of needs. Both the parent and the child have a need they want to satisfy…and they clash! Begin a healthy resolution of the conflict by accepting that your child has a legitimate need. Respect their desire to have that need met in an appropriate way. Modeling respect and honor for your child’s needs will establish the foundation for the next steps in resolving the parent-child conflict…and, it increases the likelihood that your child will listen to, honor, and respect your needs as well.   

Second, take time to discuss the conflict with your child. Set aside enough time to discuss each of your needs as well as mutually acceptable ways to meet those needs. Having this type of discussion does more than offer an opportunity to resolve the conflict. This discussion also helps your child develop thinking and problem-solving skills. It can also lead to better solutions; and, since your child has had input and an investment of time in devising the solution, it may also lead to greater motivation from your child to comply with the solution. To have an effective conflict discussion with your child, you will need the time to cover these 6 steps:

      1.    Identify and define the problem. This will involve defining the parents’ needs and the child’s needs. We often need to differentiate needs from requests. For instance, “I need my own room” is more of a request than a need. You can ask what this request will “do for you” to get at the deeper need.  Listen closely and attentively to understand your child’s needs. The goal of this step is to clearly state the problem and each person’s needs in a manner that both parent and child can agree upon and understand.


2.   Generate possible solutions. Come up with as many solutions to the problem as you can. Do not evaluate, judge or belittle any ideas. Simple accept the ideas as they arise. Make sure each person contributes to the possible solutions.


3.   Evaluate the alternative solutions. Now you can consider each of the solutions from step 2 and evaluate each one. Which ones look best? Which will produce positive results for parent and child? Which are acceptable to each person involved? What are the possible negative results?


4.   Decide on the best solution. Based on the evaluations of step 3, agree on a solution to “try out.” Remember, the solution is not a rigid permanent requirement set in stone but a flexible dynamic process; you can always try the solution out and modify it as needed. Before moving to step 5, clarify that each person is willing to make a commitment to carry out the agreed upon solution.


5.   Implement the solution. This step will most likely include a clarification of how you will implement the solution. Who does what? When? How often? To what standard? Again, remember that these specifics can be modified as needed.


6.   Evaluate. After implementing the solution for a short time, check back to evaluate its effectiveness. Are both the child’s and the parent’s needs met? Do you need to tweak the solution to make it more effective? Now is the time to do it.

You may think this process seems time consuming; but, it is not as time consuming as forcing a solution that you then have to enforce, remind, nag, and push. This process brings greater compliance, so less reminding, nagging, and pushing. Of course, this process will not work with every situation (what does?). However, when parents practice this method as often as they can, their children cooperate more, trust grows, conflict declines, and children’s problem solving skills increase. Really, isn’t that worth the time?

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