Conflict Is Going To Occur AND Conflict Is Needed… to some degree!
Constructive conflict can lead to growth and change. If you take the time at a young age to show your children the process of healthy conflict, things can go much smoother the next time a disagreement occurs and will serve them in the long term.
Ideally, you establish that even though there is a conflict you are still allies. Often times a conflict occurs and family members immediately flee to opposite sides of the ring. This breeds defensive behavior, emotional dysregulation and escalation, and what I call dirty fighting (name calling, bringing up baggage from the last fight, overgeneralizing, and blaming). This truly accomplishes nothing. No one is actually being heard and you remain on the opposite side of the ring.
These three steps foster healthy conflict
Allow each person to put themselves in the others’ position as well as take responsibility for their own part in the conflict.
Acknowledge the conflict is going in an unhealthy direction and there is a need to take space. This acknowledgment can come from each of you tapping into your physical response to what is happening, (i.e., head feeling hot, tightness somewhere in your body, pulse increasing, etc.). Allow each other to call a timeout and take space from one another. You can establish ahead of time how long you take space. This is not a way to avoid the conflict. This is merely a way for you all to regulate yourselves so you can come back and revisit the subject.
When you take time away you both do three things:
Calm yourself down. Use coping skills to achieve a more restful state of mind. This could be a walk, shooting baskets, taking bath, reading, listening to music, or deep breathing.
Each person asks themselves, “What have I done to contribute to the current conflict?” “What is my part?” Everyone has a part. It could be as simple as the tone you were using.
Flip it. Put yourself in the other person’s place: “What is mom feeling right now?” “Why is she reacting the way she is?”
When you come back together to revisit the conflict, express what you learned in the process when you took space. Express what you felt was your part in the conflict. Share your understanding of the other’s position.
This process helps your children/teens understand how to have healthy conflict. This process also helps them create and cultivate coping skills that they need for not only conflict with you and others but in general when they feel dysregulated and stressed out.