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Teach Your Kids to Handle Life’s Conflicts

Teach Your Kids to Handle Life’s Conflicts

All relationships experience conflict. People who understand this and know how to maintain friendships in the face of friction, are usually able to enjoy a lifetime of happiness. Those who lack these skills often struggle through a life filled with broken relationships. The following tips will help you give your kids the skills they need to enjoy a life full of healthy relationships.

Tip #1: Remember that children learn the most about relationships by observing how we handle ours.
How parents handle conflicts in their marriage is typically how their children will handle conflicts in their friendships and future marriages. What we do in front of our kids is far more powerful than how we tell them to live their lives.

Tip #2: Don’t make the mistake of trying to create a conflict-free family.
There is no doubt that kids suffer tremendously when they see their parents yell, argue, and fight. It’s never helpful for children to witness this type of behavior. On the other hand, it’s unhealthy for kids to see their parents stuff their emotions and try to pretend that nothing is wrong. This sends the unhealthy message that problems are to be avoided rather than solved. Children are incredibly sensitive to unspoken tension and can suffer great anxiety when their parents try to hide conflicts that need to be addressed.

Tip #3: Have some healthy disagreements or conflicts in front of your kids.
Children need to see their parents disagreeing, expressing their emotions in assertive ways, and tackling conflicts head-on. It’s healthy for kids to hear parents say things like, “It makes me mad when I try to use the car and it has no gas” or, “It’s frustrating to me when it doesn’t seem like you are listening to me.”

Tip #4: Use the lingo of problem-solving and compromise.
Children also need to hear us saying things like:

  • “How can we solve this problem?”
  • “Tell me more.”
  • “Let’s compromise.”
  • “I’m sorry that I hurt your feelings.”
  • “Here are some possible solutions.”

Tip #5: Use common sense about what you discuss in front of your kids.
Although it is healthy for kids to witness us resolving day-to-day disputes, there are some issues or topics that are not appropriate for their ears. Wise parents discuss very sensitive topics privately so that their children cannot hear them.

When parents follow these tips and kids are allowed to hear their parents resolve disputes, kids have the opportunity to learn how to resolve conflicts in their own relationships. One mother remarked, “I realize now that my husband and I were actually making it harder for our kids to have happy relationships.  By trying to keep all of our disagreements a secret, we were robbing them of opportunities to see how problems can be solved.  We were also creating a lot of unspoken tension that was draining the life out of our marriage.”

After following these tips, she said, “I witnessed our six-year-old arguing over a toy. I could hardly stop giggling when I heard him say, ‘How can we solve this problem? Let’s play something else.’ That sure beats the whining contests I used to hear!”


Thanks for reading!

Dr. Charles Fay