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Mediating conflict

In the last blog we looked at stepping back and allowing our children to try to resolve their battles. We looked at giving them boundaries, like a defined boxing ring; boundaries that reflect the culture of your home.

If they still can’t resolve, or if one child always comes off worse, it’s helpful to step in and get them listening to each other. This can feel a little bit labored at first. Under the age of four it’s hard to have a reasoned conversation with them about conflict, but from about then they can be receptive and even full of surprises.

When you get a new filling from the dentist it can feel like an enormous carbuncle in your mouth, but then, without actually changing size at all, the anomaly feels less obvious until it feels completely normal. That’s how it is with intentional habits. They can feel a bit obvious at first, and then they become hard-wired in and become a natural part of family life. And so it is with resolving conflict.

Tell the children involved that you’re giving them some breathing space and that later you’ll get together to try to get to the bottom of the issue. Time out!

Choose a time when you can sit with them and allow them to have a few minutes (age dependent) each to speak interrupted about what’s upset them. It’s often interesting to watch them as they really engage with the other child’s perspective. We’ve often heard them say “I hadn’t realised that,” or express and understanding that they didn’t have before.

It isn’t a magic wand. They may not come away in agreement, but they will come away heard and they may process differently as a result. If the aim in your home is to be respectful to one another, then listening to each other is a helpful way to follow through.

We’ve been amazed by the understanding they’ve developed in this time, even though, as I mentioned earlier, it can feel a little like hard work at first.

Over time, you can suggest they do it without you present and believe it or not, once it’s hard-wired in, they’ll default to taking it in turns to listen to each other without your prompting.

A culture of respect, like all cultures, takes time to establish and grow, but once it has, it will be set in and influence all their relationships.

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