If you are a mother with more than one child in the family its possible that your children have experienced some reoccurring conflict in the past. Some unfortunate mothers may often find themselves in the middle of two fighting children who just don't know how to stop. The frequency of conflict can occur differently for each family depending on a variety of factors such as age, gender and the family situation or circumstances. If you are finding that repeated occurrences are becoming a problem, then it may be a good idea to have some kind of conflict management plan in place. While this may sound complicated, its really just a systemized way of getting your kids to start looking after themselves. An organized mother (or father) can teach their kids the systemized process of avoiding conflict through good habits. Its far more effective for mothers in the long run to approach this problem at its very root rather than to find themselves constantly frustrated and bewildered as each occurrence unfolds. When it comes to unique learning opportunities this is one that will (quite literally) save you a lot of problems down the road.
Conflict resolution is clearly the role of both mothers and fathers. While this plan can be used by both parents, I have most frequently referred to the mother as this parent is more likely to be around their kids more often. This is particularly the case of many young mothers in Japan.
In the following several paragraphs I’ve laid out the basic plan. There is no need to try and remember everything at first, as I have then simplified it in point form for you. This is then followed by some further explanation.
Suppose you're the mother of 2 kids are aged 3 and 6 years old. Regardless of their age, it goes without saying that when you hear your kids fighting you need to then make your presence known to them. This is the first step. Once you are on the scene you can obviously act as a go between by offering some kind of emotional assistance and control over the situation.
The second step is to help your kids clearly identify the problem. Step 3 is to then help each child respond in an appropriate way. Next allow each child in turn to express themselves while encouraging the other to listen. Then try to teach the older child the difference between assertive and aggressive behavior.
Still with me? There are just a few more…
The next step is to discuss the choices that your older child makes while steering her in the direction of empathy.
The 7th step for mothers is to acknowledge your 6 year olds attempts at resolving the conflict. Feed back such as this is great for self esteem and this offers your child the encouragement to try again in the future.
Finally, decide on the best option for everyone, and, once you have decided on the best way to meet both the children’s needs, you need to set the option in motion and monitor the results.
Did you get all that?
Of course, nobody said parenting is easy and this is particularly true for mothers. This plan may certainly not go as smoothly as I have described it at first, but by having this plan clear in your mind you will have a working structure to steer you in the direction of (wait for it…..) Patience.
“Patience is bitter but the fruit is sweet”- Jean Jacques Rousseau
Patience, is indeed a virtue, but this does not mean it has to come naturally. A little scaffolding in the form of a plan such as this can be very supportive and will definitely be greatly more effective than just yelling at your kids. As you work the plan, each time will become a little easier, until one day you just might notice that the kids are actually doing it for themselves!
“Good character is not formed in a week or a month, it is created little by little, day by day.” -Heraclitus
Once again, here are the tips in point form.
1) Step in and offer emotional control.
2) Help them identify the problem.
3) Suggest ways to respond.
4) Keep them talking but focus them on listening.
5) Help them understand the difference between “aggressive and assertive”.
6) Discuss choices and talk about empathy.
7) Acknowledge their efforts and offer positive feed back.
8) Decide on the best option for everyone.
9) Monitor results and adjust accordingly.
1) There is a very good expression that says “Hurt people, hurt people”. This is especially true for kids. Dropping your mothers calming influence into a volatile mix of emotions will stabilize the situation enough for the next step. Be sure to pay attention to your tone of voice and try to keep it neutral.
2) By helping them identify the problem you are essentially refocusing their line of thought. Switching them from an emotional state to a considerate frame of mind is a habit that can be soon learned through repetition.
3) Suggesting ways to respond supports steps one and two and role models examples to move them further away from their emotional state and further toward solving the problem.
4) A focus on listening rather than talking will open them up to possibilities beyond their current frame of reference. This is particularly relevant for the older child. Gently coax her to listen for an opening, or a way out. Kids are very intuitive and you may be surprised at just how quickly your 6 year old catches on.
5) Giving them a feel for the grey boundary between “aggressive” and “assertive “will give them a mental space to aim for. As you continue to repeat this step for each occasion add more and more examples to concrete your child reference point. Over time they will form a reference solid enough to support real confidence.
6) As mentioned, most of this work needs to be done by the older child. Discussing choices will empower her, but rather than use this against her younger sibling we need to channel this into the right understanding. Talking about empathy will direct her down this path. Remember that this is a great learning opportunity, so don't make her feel like a failure.
7) For a 6 year old this is a lot of hard work. Acknowledging her efforts makes it so much easier for her to keep up the good work and offering positive feedback will encourage her to take the initiative to solve future conflicts without your intervention.
8) The “Best option for everyone” largely revolves around being able to save face for all those involved. Some of what goes on will slip passed a very young child, but from the age of 3 a strong sense of self will have developed. Preserving both your children’s dignity by avoiding humiliation or embarrassment is a very important aspect of maintaining their positive self identity. The older the child, the greater their need becomes.
9) Monitoring the results means keeping aware of the feelings of both children. Younger kids have the ability to let go of emotional states relatively quickly, where as an older child may take longer. Nobody knows your kids like you do, so listen to your intuition and provide more explanation and direction where necessary. Giving your child real life examples from your own childhood will be greatly appreciated by your children as they move beyond the age of six.