In order to show your kids how to fight, you must begin with accepting that conflict is a normal part of a healthy relationship. Conflict is not something to be avoided or feared. When handled correctly, it actually provides an opportunity for relationships to deepen.
When I was growing up, my parents frowned on sibling fights. Instead of learning how to deal with conflict, I was told that it was wrong to fight and never given guidance for working through it. As much as I loved my parents and respect them for their parenting, this was one area that I felt they neglected: they did not teach us HOW to fight through conflict. They instead taught us to just avoid it altogether.
And let’s be honest, avoidance is simply not the best way to deal with problems, nor is it the healthiest. Avoidance just stuffs it down; it will rear its head again. So instead of sweeping conflict under the rug, let’s teach our kids HOW to fight in a way that will help them work through disagreements.
Here are 5 simple rules to follow as you fight with your spouse and to teach your kids to use when they are in conflict with each other.
Rule #1: When starting to solve the problem, don’t begin by being critical
“Well, the problem with you is….”
“You haven’t changed by now, so what difference will this make?”
Blaming another for the problem is not the way to begin trying to find a resolution. If that is how you begin an argument, you are not interested in resolution, you are interested in making a point and winning the argument.
Fights that begin with criticism make chances for a resolution very slim.
Rule #2: Avoid cross complaining
Cross complaining happens when one person brings up a problem with the other person that has nothing to do with the issue at hand. When this happens, both parties go down argumentative rabbit trails and may even forget what the initial problem was.
This is one of the most common mistakes people make when they fight. If you want to find resolutions, focus on one problem at a time and don’t keep bringing up other faults or mistakes that have nothing to do with the issue that began the whole argument.
Rule #3: Stop interrupting each other
Interruption shows you are not truly listening to the other person and only want to be heard yourself. You are not seeking to understand, you are only seeking to make your next point and prove that you are right.
If you are truly seeking a resolution; you’ve got to hear the other person before expressing your thoughts.
Rule #4: Don’t Make Excuses
“I didn’t have time!”
“Something came up!”
Excuses are a way of denying your responsibility and are often attached to a “But.”
“I’m sorry I yelled at you, BUT I was really tired after a long day.”
“I’m sorry I forgot, BUT I have a lot of things on my mind.”
Here’s a challenge for you, parents: The next time you apologize, leave off the BUT. Just say you’re sorry you forgot, or that you yelled. Period. Apologies are diluted when they are accompanied with an excuse.
Rule #5: Stop Exaggerating the problem
One very common way of exaggerating is using the words “always” and “never.”
“You never do such and such!”
“You always do that!”
In all likelihood, those statements are false anyway; chances are you didn’t notice when they did do it right.
Staying away from “always” and “never” is the first step towards reigning in exaggerations. Start there and then work on broad generalizations and assumptions.
Show Your Kids How to Fight
Begin by applying these rules to your grown-up fights and then share the rules with your kids. Instead of saying, “I don’t ever want to hear you fight with your sister or brother”, say, “When you disagree or argue, remember to follow these rules.” Help them to understand that the result of conflict should be resolutions, not one person winning or not two people just out to vent their anger.