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The Taos News




Helping Your Child With Conflict

December 2014

Conflict is a major source of stress in many kids’ lives.  At the same time, it is an unavoidable part of being human.  If you will teach your children a few simple guidelines for handling conflict fairly and in positive ways, it will reduce their stress, enable them to get along better with others, help them to feel better about themselves, and they will gain the respect of others.

Dealing with conflicts is easier when you know what starts them.  Two major causes are the collision of differing needs and wants, and grouchy moods. For example, your daughter wants to watch one TV show while her brother wants to watch a different one.  Or a friend at school has been ignoring your daughter.  Hurt feelings kick in, causing the conflict to grow.  When you help your child understand what is annoying or upsetting, she will have a chance to figure out what to do about the situation, rather than just react. 

Teach your child that being willing to work out a conflict is a major key to resolving it.  When he is unwilling to work things out, three things usually happen:  blame and more blame, the conflict gets louder, meaner and bigger, and conflicts with others become commonplace, causing life to be more stressful.  Every person has blocks which make them resist working things out, such as wanting to be right, not wanting to look weak, or fear of looking stupid.  Help your child identify those blocks and ask him whether it is really worthwhile to hold onto them and whether he is willing to summon up the courage to change. 

More suggestions:  to help your child be a problem solver rather than conflict creator, teach her how to calm down before she reacts.  She could do this by walking away from the situation, getting a drink of water, taking some deep breaths, washing her face, or even running a few laps around the block.  This will help her to avoid physical fights and to listen to what others have to say.  Once she has calmed down, help her to recognize how she feels, why she feels that way, and what she wants and needs.  Then she will be in a better position to listen to what the other person has to say.  Assist her in learning how to resist the urge to interrupt or to let her mind drift while the other person is speaking.  This will make it easier for her to understand the other person’s feelings and point of view and to get along better with him or her. 

One obstacle your child might have to resolving conflict is forgiving the other person.  Sometimes he may feel he was really right and the other person was really wrong and want to punish that person.  At those times, you can explain to him that holding on to anger and resentment hurts him the most and encourage him to stop allowing his anger to take up any more time and space in his brain.  Remind him  that holding onto anger is like holding a hot coal in your hand and expecting the other person to get burned and that resentment is like taking poison and waiting for the other person to die.

As you assist your children in resolving their conflicts, you can remind them they have more to gain by working things out than by blaming the other person or by using put-downs.  Help them to look for ways to solve conflict rather than just win arguments.  Teach them to put themselves in the other person’s place, to speak their truth respectfully, and to be willing to compromise.  Learning how to solve conflicts rather than escalate them will positively affect not only their lives, but also the lives of the people around them.


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