In Part 1 of this series, we talked about how important a strong parenting team is to building a peaceful family. Part 2 moved beyond the parents and involved the whole family in creating a shared vision. while in Part 3 we dealt with routines, ritual, and structure. Together, these things provide the foundation for your family life. Now, we will begin the problem-solving steps – learning new skills that will help resolve and minimize conflict when it pops up.
Part 4: Effective Communication and Conflict Resolution
Conflict is an inevitable part of every co-habitating relationship. When we live together, sometimes we fight. We don’t all agree on every decision all the time. This holds for husbands and wives, parents and children, siblings. It doesn’t matter who you are, if you live under the same roof, occasionally you will face conflict!
So, what can we do to help smooth those rocky patches and get back to the pleasant, harmonious life we envision for our family? Here are some ideas to get you started:
Decrease Reactivity. Those who are closest to us know us best. They seem to have a knack for going straight to that one thing that drives us crazy. One of the best things you can do for your relationships is learn what your hot buttons are and dismantle them. Figure out what it is that always sends you over the edge. Is it eye-rolling from you 12-year-old? Is it the daily battle to get out the door on time? Or the dreaded hour before dinner when everyone is whiny and irritable? Spend some time discovering your trigger points using this Identifying Family Stress Triggers Worksheet.
Know Your Style. Effective communication is so important to interpersonal relationships! We must be able to express our concerns and be heard before any resolution can occur. Oftentimes every member of a family will feel equally unheard. NO ONE IS LISTENING! And, no one knows how to communicate in ways that the others CAN HEAR. In other families, the problem is just the opposite: members pour gasoline on every conversation resulting in constant explosions. Everyone is talking, but still, no one feels really heard and understood. So, let’s work on building better communication, shall we?
- Style worksheet: Determine whether you are using passive, aggressive, passive-aggressive, or assertive communication methods. Read through the description of each style and then take a look at the worksheet for help in determining your style.
- Communication Guide Poster: Use this resource to help everyone stay on track with effective communication skills. Coming soon
Prioritize Talking. It’s time for you to start a regular Family Meeting. This is the single best step you can take to minimize conflict BEFORE the storm.
- Family meetings are time set aside to promote meaningful communication.
- They provide for discussion, decision-making, problem solving, encouragement and cooperation.
- Family meetings can be structured and formal or flexible and informal. It’s all about what works for you.
- At family meetings, everyone plays a part and has something to contribute. Everyone is equal and participates based on their ability and maturity.
There is a lot of great information about getting started with your own family meetings at Positive Discipline. Head on over and check it out and then make a commitment to your family by scheduling time for the first family meeting!
Deal with Disputes. Even with all these great, positive practices you will still find that there is occasional conflict. That’s okay. Here’s a great printable to help you deal with it effectively. Print a copy for each party involved. Everyone should fill out the form separately. The act of writing about the problem helps clarify issues and diffuses some of the emotion. Then, get together and share your work – talk through each answer with respect and practice authentic listening.
Family communication is a BIG topic and you can certainly expect to see more written about it here. But, those are some of the basics to get you started down the right path. Finally in Part 5, we will talk about increasing positive interactions. In the meantime, here are a few recommended resources: