Preparing for Battle - How to make a family conflict as positive as possible

Updated: May 14, 2021

In my blog “From Stress to Success - Positively Handling Conflict In Family Life” I wrote about the importance of preparation and how it can make a significant difference to how a conflict goes.

This is something I encourage clients to break into 3 parts – before, during and after as at each stage a different response may be required.

Also if you’re in a heightened state in the midst of a conflict neuroscience indicates that your best decisions may be based around what will calming things down rather than bring resolution whereas before or after may be better suited to those approaches.

If you’re looking to dig into this a bit more then here’s some help:

If you can see conflict looming what can you do beforehand which might help?

You might not always see conflict looming, but if you know an issue has potential to cause conflict then preparing can go a long way. It's definitely more valuable than just avoiding it!

When and how are you likely to get the most constructive communication and outcome?

When we had teenagers I knew one of them had a huge sense of justice and fairness and if I was heading into a potential conflict it would go a hell of a lot better if he could see he was being treated fairly – I even resorted once to putting up a sign in the bathroom to address something which only he was doing – but by putting up the sign he felt it was fair – it was a rule EVERYONE had to follow (even though everyone else already did). Random, but it worked – a far better resolution than a shouting row and him then having to prove a point.

Planning a conversations for in the car, while you're doing an activity together or just taken time to plan what was most important in communication can all mean you're prepared and giving a potentially difficult situation the best chance of positive communication.

What helps when you’re in the thick of an argument?

It’s impossible to avoid all conflict. When you’re in the midst of it then it can be hard to think straight so planning ahead how you want to be and to handle it can be a wise and helpful step forward.

What do you want your child to experience from you when there is a conflict – explore what that looks like – what would they see you doing, saying and how would you feel? You cannot control what others do, but how you behave will undoubtedly have an influence on how the conflict goes.

Scripts, or a pre prepared strategy can help to avoid that moment when you’re raging, stressed and not at your most rational and you slip into making threats to cancel and ban everything and then as the argument escalates you find yourself extending the ban to forever then infinity as no-one calms down.

Could you ask your child: “Can you give me 5 minutes to calm down so I can handle this better?”

“Let’s just do X until we’re all calm enough to talk about this.”

If your child is younger it may be useful to have resources or approaches you consistently use. We have a big feelings box full of toys and resources which help our children when they are feeling overwhelmed – things which they can pull, squeeze and bite.

Recognising when you’re in the state where you or whoever you’re in conflict with is not able to make a wise choice and having a plan for how to deal with that can be really helpful and enable you to press pause rather than setting yourselves up to fail.

If you feel yourself heading down the threats route then put restrictors on “I’ll need to think seriously about you not going to XXXXX” gives you a get out for when you’ve calmed down if you then think what you’ve said is unreasonable rather than “That’s it! YOU ARE NOT/NEVER….”

What helps you stay measured in the heat of the moment?

After - How can you restore the relationship and find a way to learn and grow together?

What usually happens in the aftermath of conflict? Are you a family who holds grudges or are you able to move on quickly? Are apologies a token gesture or is there an opportunity for meaningful conversation?

When conflict goes wrong there is still huge opportunity to learn and grow. When it’s all been horrible how are you all going to restore relationship? How does each person “set it right” and take responsibility for their part including the adults?

Does your child know and understand what you expect from them? Do they see you model it? What choices do they have about how to set things right? If they can see what the problem was and how it affected others AS WELL as having a voice to express their feelings and difficulties then that’s a great start. If they can be part of solving and working out how to move forward even better.[1]

What we do in the aftermath of conflict can be significant – it’s hard and scary (what if you set it all off again?) but it’s also where we have the opportunity to teach our children how to rise from mistakes and setbacks.

What can you do before, during and after to help make conflict a more positive experience?

If you need a helping hand to explore this further book a chat at:

#conflict #familyarguments #parenting #parentlife #optimumfamily #coaching #parentcoaching #familysupport #gloucester #gloucestershire

[1] This is very much the approach of restorative practice. The following link gives you a bit more information based on practice in schools in Gloucestershire.

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