Sometimes we fight.
I know, that’s horrible to say, but it’s true. And I hate it. When I can see the conflict coming with my kids, I try to head it off.
How? By asking myself five focusing questions, my “five for fighting.” I don’t always ask all of them, but usually one or two help me when I’m losing my perspective, getting into a no-win confrontation, or slipping in my priorities. Here’s what I ask myself.
5 Questions I Ask When I’m in Conflict with My Kids
The Wisdom Q: Is this worth it?
We’ve all had that experience of realizing, usually right in the middle of meltdown, that this thing I’m fighting for just isn’t worth it. Do I really want to let my relationship take a hit over a haircut? Am I really going to push my agenda right now and risk hurting our trust? Of course there are times when we need to push through, hold the line, be the unpopular parent–I get that. I’m not arguing for always giving in. But for me, I know there are times when I lose perspective on what really matters, and end up harming my relationship over something I really, in the end, don’t care about nearly as much as I care about my son. The Wisdom Q helps me walk away at times I might have stubbornly held my ground and gained nothing of value.
The Purpose Q: What’s my goal here?
In a similar way, I try to ask myself why I’m expecting something, saying no to a request, or urging some kind of behaviour. By asking “What’s my goal here?” I’m able to focus on the result, the end goal, which makes me more flexible in how we get there. It also helps me communicate with my boys more effectively, sharing with them why something is important to me, why we are doing this a certain way, why I’m concerned about this choice or that option. Asking “What’s my goal?” keeps me from being that parent who gives orders but never explains the reasons. Maturing kids need to know “why”, and so do maturing parents.
The Effectiveness Q: Will this even work?
Haven’t we all had the experience of realizing, as we got further in, that this is stupid and won’t work? I’ve had “great” ideas about a family “policy” that didn’t account for reality. But how many times has pride kept us pushing, somehow thinking that if we just persevere it will work in the end? For the time’s that’s true, asking the effectiveness question can reassure your decision. But if you realize you’re now fighting for something that’s not going to work, show the humility needed and stop.
The Empathy Q: How are they seeing this?
Oh, I cannot tell you how helpful this has been for me. I get so caught up in my perspective that I fail to really understand how my son is seeing all this. Getting around to his side of the table, asking questions, opening up to his way of viewing things will not only help build our relationship, but it’ll go a long way to understanding what is really going on. And I’ve been consistently surprised by how thoughtful and aware my sons are, and how together we will often come to a better solution.
The Action Q: What can I do to lean into relationship right now?
This, my friends, is the game-changer, and it applies not only to conflict but across the parenting board. What action can I take to nurture my relationship, right now? There have been times when I’m not seeing eye to eye with one of my sons on a particular issue, and instead of just trying to hammer it through, I try to do something that will actually grow our relationship. Sometimes it’s as simple as playing a game with them, taking them to the bakery for some “special son and dad time” (we have a long tradition of that one), or simply showing interest in something they’ve been doing. Taking action for the relationship, rather than focusing on the particular conflict we’ve been having, has had remarkable effect. Not only has our relationship grown, the conflict has often been diffused, sometimes even solved.
Which question seems most helpful to you?
What has helped you navigate conflict with your child?