“Help. All my kids do is fight. There is constant conflict. What can I do?” If that sounds like your house, learn to R.A.P. No, I am not talking about learning to speak rhythmically against a background of rhythm instruments while practicing hip hop moves. My children would die of embarrassment if I tried. No, I’m not talking about a musical rap; I’m talking about three parenting skills that can reduce rivalry, competition, and jealousy between your child and their siblings or their peers. The acronym R.A.P. might help us remember these three skills. Let’s look at each one and see how they can help reduce conflict in the home.
- Recognize each child’s unique contribution to your family and the world. Every child has unique strengths and abilities. Take time to notice those strengths and abilities. Notice what they do well. Pay attention to what brings them joy. Add those things that bring joy to your child into your interactions with him. Take time to notice what troubles your child as well. Observe what circumstances increase their stress. Help protect them from those situations that trouble them by teaching them coping skills, standing by them to resolve conflicts, or making appropriate changes. Recognize and acknowledge the actions, words, and behaviors that you admire in your child.
- Accept your child just as they are. Appreciate them for their unique personality. Acceptance and appreciation build a sense of security in your child. This sense of security promotes honesty as opposed to rivalry. Appreciating each child also gives them a sense of significance. It teaches them that their efforts make a difference; their actions in this world are meaningful. Remember, in order to truly feel appreciated, your child must first know you accept them. Without acceptance, verbal appreciation may come across as manipulation. Also don’t forget to appreciate effort above accomplishment. Let your children know that you accept them whether they successfully accomplish the goal or not. Accept them for who they are and acknowledge that their effort has an impact.
- Peace keeper: work to maintain peace in your child’s world. Resolve conflicts and differences between your child and yourself. Teach your child to resolve conflicts with his or her siblings. Encourage your child to resolve conflicts and differences they have with peers. Peace-keeping demands that you model and teach negotiation skills, communication skills, and the ability to compromise. To the extent that you model peace-keeping and resolve conflicts, your child will experience an inner calm that allows them to learn and grow. Without peaceful relationships and calm resolution skills, you will find your child’s mind spinning, confused, and distracted. Do all you can to live at peace with one another.
Well, that’s a “R.A.P.” –three crucial parenting skills to reduce family conflict: recognize each child, accept each child, and strive to maintain peace. Practicing them is more difficult than writing about them. In fact, we all make mistakes and fall well short of perfection from time to time. But, practice makes perfect…well, practice results in improvement. At any rate, as you practice these roles you will find that fighting decreases and affection increases (in spite of our occasional mistakes)…and that is worth the “R.A.P.”