In the book Getting More, Stuart Diamond dedicates an entire section to conflict between parents and their children and talks about how these conflicts can be resolved by treating it as a series of negotiations.

The chapter starts of with an architecture’s daughter missing the bus to school. Every. Single. Day. After doing some role playing exercises the author realizes that the daughter misses the bus because she wants to spend more time with the father, so he tells her if she takes the bus he gets more time to work during weekdays and therefore will not have to work over weekends, and therefore be able to spend more time with her. The daughter agrees and both sides are happy as a result of it.

For most parents the tool used under these circumstances is violence, be it physical or emotional. Most parents under such circumstances (me included) would yell, threaten and some would even consider a well placed smack to gain cooperation from their children.

Studies however show this method to backfire, with spanking causing aggressive behavior and reduced IQ when they grow up. The other

These series of small scale conflicts tend to add up to a lack of trust between parents and their children where there’s a communications breakdown as children find it progressively less safe to express themselves for fear of retribution from the parents. This is one factor that can lead to antisocial behavior and rebellion down the road.

In the book Diamond makes the case that children are natural at negotiations, which is why they’re so good at playing parents off against one another or using just the ride words to get what they want. All children are also individuals, so there’s no one size fits all technique to getting through, but by using some of the tools in the book you can certainly reach a mutually beneficial equilibrium.

The following is a summary of the steps given in the book.

  1. Be calm - don’t freak out or get upset over what just happened. Treat all incidents as matter of fact and use it as an opportunity to start step 1.

  2. Figure out the pictures in the head of your child - when they come to you saying “I want to watch TV” ask them “Why?” or “Tell me more”. Talk to them, open a dialogue, and really understand what they want and why they want it. Time spent to understand your child as they come to you with their needs will pay dividends in trust and respect later on.

  3. Define your goals - not just short term goals such as do your homework or eat your vegetables, but what do you really want out or your children, such as to grow up to be loving, responsible adults then see if there are creative ways of meeting those goals. Perhaps it’s possible to do homework after TV. Perhaps the homework is really not important as long as the grades are being achieved. Maybe the grades are not that important after all. It’s also possible to trade unequal items, such as a movie night, in exchange for a week’s work of homework. However focusing on the goals will give you more options on how to get there.

  4. Listen to what they have to say. Think how an adult would react if you treated them the same way. If they don’t want to go to school, perhaps they’re tired, or being bullied. Sit down and talk to them and find a way out together.

  5. Consult with your children. Often times children are left out of the decision making process and they feel frustrated and powerless. By including them in the decision making process you give them power and you can hold them to decisions that were reached together. Reverse role play is also useful here where you and your kids can pretend to be each other and argue from the other person’s perspective.

All an all this book provides a lot of valuable advice and I can recommend it not only for parents who want to improve communications with their kids but also to get more out life in general.

How do you resolve conflic with your kids? Drop me an email or leave a comment below.