Trust the Process: What Parents Can Teach Their Kids About Conflict Resolution
Even we think that conflict resolution is one of the hardest lessons to teach our kids! And that’s okay!
Teaching kids about conflict resolution isn’t just telling them to “use their head” or “use common sense” and then call it a day. In the first place, what counts as “common sense” when common sense isn’t even common in the first place?
Conflict resolution means making sure that everyone has a “fair” ending all across the board. Everyone’s feelings are validated and there’s a strategy or plan in place to make things better moving forward. But staying solution-oriented in a highly emotional situation is tough! It demands some internal and external masteries that even we are not familiar with!
However, this is a life skill that our kids will need especially when they have their own relationships. Here are some things to keep in mind while teaching our kids about conflict resolution.
1. Know your “fighting style.”
Fighting styles aren’t just limited to physical combat like martial arts. They also refer to how we handle arguments. Some of us are explosive and use our loud voices to overwhelm. Others scream in their minds but remain quiet on the outside.
Then, there’s also the usual “passive-aggressive” approach, which is especially common among Filipinos. Often known as tampo (lit. sulking), those who do so often withdraw or throw dirty side looks.
Nagdadabog is a more physical expression of sulking, wherein we roughly handle objects to express our displeasure. It’s not as confrontational, but it does let people know that we’re annoyed (the act of nagpaparinig or nagpaparamdam). Sometimes, we just wait for the person to ask the rhetorical question: “Are you okay?” and then we go off!
Unfortunately, that’s not the best fighting style to have since problems fester and grow bigger. But being aware of one’s fighting style means that we can tweak it to make it less toxic and teach our kids how to unlearn this type of behavior if they exhibit it.
2. Acknowledging frustrations helps calm things down.
Most conflict resolutions fail because of our invalidated frustrations. But we forget that said frustrations come from realizing that we invested our emotions in the wrong thing. Unlike money, which is tangible and definitive, emotions are different. As a currency, emotions have two components that we can never get back: time and effort spent.
When acknowledging frustrations, don’t say things like, “Yeah, I get it but…” That statement—specifically what comes after “but”—still shows that we are insisting we’re right. Instead, try something like “Yeah, that’s definitely awful. What can we do now?” It tells our partner and our kids that we do want to fix the problem and that they are not the problem.
3. Venting out to third parties is just a short-lived solution.
Some of us just need to vent, especially when we’re so frustrated with our partners or kids that we call up our best friend or confidante to deal with our rage. While it helps air things out, it drags an innocent party into a fight—especially one with no investment or reason to be involved in the first place. Although social media and messaging platforms make it so convenient to talk to them, it doesn’t resolve the problem.
In the Philippines, we call the act of involving and ranting to third parties. “Naghahanap ng kakampi,” so to speak. We want validation, yes. But bringing in a third party doesn’t solve the issue we may have because we’re not directly confronting the people involved. Plus, why rant when you can talk to the person directly and solve the issue at hand?
4. There will be instances when we need to “choose our battles.”
We all have a desired outcome in an argument. But when resolving conflicts with other people, there will be a need to compromise. Between us and our kids, we tend to give in to what they want because we love them. Or we stand our ground because we’re the one in charge—even if (admit it), we’re not always right.
But other people aren’t as understanding or forgiving. This is why there are some instances when we need to “choose our battles.” Yes, our ego may be bruised, but do we really want to compromise our relationship—or event other people’s perception of us—just because of a fight, an argument, or a disagreement?
We’ll be using the phrase “at least” a lot when explaining the concept to the kids. Whenever we’re fighting for something, we have to categorize things into two groups: the negotiables and the non-negotiables. The negotiables refer to matters that can slide, but non-negotiables have much more depth—be it your principles, or when safety and well-being are at stake.
5. It’s okay to “agree to disagree.”
As parents, this is also one of the hardest lessons to learn for us. We are in positions of power—therefore, giving up is not an option. Even more so when we firmly believe that the idea will benefit the family!
But we have to remember that we’re not God. We make mistakes, too. Getting defensive when our kids resist our orders or reject our suggestions is our usual reaction because it feels like they’re being disobedient or challenging our authority. And that shouldn’t be the case.
Yes, a part of us will feel like we’re failing as parents because we can’t get them to agree or follow us. But that’s normal especially because with the rise of technology, our kids may know more than us. When that happens, we can “agree to disagree” and just tell them to “Make sure all your bases are covered.”
6. Don’t micromanage.
During conflicts, we stress out over everything—both small and big—because we’re trying to manage everything. We call this micromanagement; we’re trying to make sure that everything goes to plan by controlling every little detail. Our attempt to do so stems from wanting to soothe our fear of the unknown.
And yes, that includes being unprepared.
This is especially true if we grew up in a household that didn’t tolerate failure. All the more we will try to micromanage out of fear of punishment. In some cases, we call this mentality “my way or the high way.” In Filipino, we sometimes say, “Sino mag-aadjust?” in the hopes of prompting the other party to be the one to give in to what we want.
However, micromanaging doesn’t work well in the long run. Our rigidity makes us more prone to meltdowns and mood swings, especially when things don’t go our way or things are done differently. When we feel the urge to do so, ask ourselves what we’re trying to do in the first place. Are we doing it to teach our kids or are we doing it because we feel that people will attribute our kid’s failure to us?
7. Not all conflicts are worth winning.
Some of us grew up in a highly competitive household so we get this “high” whenever we do something right or are proven right. But unfortunately, the right one doesn’t always mean it’s the “good” one. In some cases, the right outcome can be a bad one wherein more people get hurt. So, how do we know which conflicts are worth fighting for and resolving and which ones aren’t?
One is knowing if the choices are not too groundbreaking. Like, letting our kids change their milk brand for the day isn’t going to sabotage their health for the rest of their lives. But if they left the oven or the stove leaking out gas, we have that right to tell them off for it because the house could have burned down!
Don’t fight to win. Fight to fix the problem.
When people think about conflict resolution, there’s the usual assumption of a winning and a losing side. But it doesn’t always have to be like that. What if both concerns make sense? Or, what if both concerns lead to a single solution?
Sometimes, we forget to teach kids that conflict resolution isn’t about proving who’s right and who’s wrong. It’s about making things better and fair for everyone.