Thursday, January 13, 2011

Battling Conflict the Mediated Way

Blocking Attitude

There have been a few issues in our house this week that have led to conflict.
My eldest is very expressive in her anger and it's not always demur, to say the least. While we're teaching her new ways to handle her anger and how to self-regulate, here is a scenario that might encourage you in your home.

Explosion of anger hits me in the heart and I'm staring into the hardened eyes of my eight year old.
I take a calming breath. This is the behaviour we are working through as a family.
I've modelled it and now it's out performing me.
Sow to to wind, reap the whirlwind, so to speak.

"Calm down and tell me why you are so angry."
"No." The angst in the eyebrows tells me she means it.
I remember to employ a few things some counselor friends have taught me:

I sit down BESIDE my child. We sit shoulder to shoulder to talk together, not across from each other on different sides.

I take my child's hand.
This is sending an important message. It says," I care more about our relationship, than I do about this argument."

She tries to pull free.
"Please talk to me," I ask softly. "Why are you so angry?"
Her chest heaves a few times, and I pray that she will open her heart to me.
She starts slowly, "You aren't listening to me. That's why I'm yelling at you and talking rude. You aren't listening to me." (Intentionality and Reciprocity)

I know what that feels like. I think through our morning. I have been a bit demanding. I've made two changes in her sphere of living and didn't give her time to adjust. This isn't about obedience--this is about truly caring about what is important to her.

I pull her close and tenderly say, "I know what that feels like. It's hard isn't it when no one seems to be listening. I felt like that this morning during chore time. Do you remember me sayng, 'You guys aren't listening.' " (Bridging)
She nods against my chest.
"I am sorry for not listening to you. Will you forgive me? I really value what you have to say. Your ideas matter to me. Your thoughts are important to me. Why don't you tell me what you wanted to say about this change."
She relays her concerns. Concerns that I had written off as unimportant because I was hurrying to get through the task. Concerns that I brushed to the side and labelled as "stalling."

She apologizes for her negative behaviour and tries hard not to roll her eyes when she hears her consequence.

"Well, we do need to finish this task, and I think we can come up with a way to work together to solve it. Do you have any different ideas?" (Optimistic Alternative)

We think things through and come up with three possible solutions. I whittle away one of them for time sake and let her pick between the two. I talk about the MEANING of our task and how it will help us function more efficiently in our home.

After some consideration, she picks a solution and we work together on it...side by side.

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