Parenting Tips: How to Prevent Fights with Your Kids

Do you want to learn how to avoid fighting with your kids? Learn a conflict resolution expert's surprising take on famly fights (hint: it's not about what you think)

Credit: Flickr /CAGATOTA

The arguments you have with your kids are about more than the subject matter

Are you arguing with your child constantly? Here’s how to get your point across without coming off as the bad guy

You may be surprised to learn from a conflict resolution expert that the arguments you have with your kids usually aren’t about the subject matter at all – or at least not really.

Gary Harper, a former mediator and now full-time trainer in the art of conflict resolution (and an author on the subject) compares conflict to a three-legged stool. Content, he says, is only one of the legs. “The vast majority of conflicts,” he asserts, “get derailed by people digging in [and by] unmanaged emotion.” Sound like you and your kid?

Arguments and the Stories We Tell

“In conflict each person has their own story, and each person feels hit first,” Harper explains. “The way my book and workshops approach [this] is through the archetypal drama triangle of victims, heroes and villains. In our own version of our conflicts, we’re either the innocent victim or the misunderstood hero and tend to view the other person as the villain.”

Moms and dads are particularly drawn to the misunderstood hero role, or as we like to declare: “You’ll thank me for this when you’re older!” But kids don’t buy into the same script, Harper explains. “You feel unfairly attacked, and they feel like the victim.”

How to Deal with Child/parent Conflict

For example, if conversations about whether kids are old enough to ride the bus alone are breaking down, Harper suggests you look at the other two legs of the stool: emotion and process.

That latter, he asserts, is key: “How are the two people involved treating each other as they’re attempting to discuss and resolve the issue? And that’s something that’s really relevant with kids. In terms of process needs (the overriding one), people need to feel respected within the conversation. People need to at least be heard and understood.”

Adults can relate to their kids’ feelings if they remember the last time they had to call Telus about a problem. Notes Harper: “When we deal with bureaucracy we feel powerless, and that makes us feel angry.” It’s worth remembering that to our kids, we’re that powerful, even if that’s the last thing we feel like. 

Finally, Harper urges those in conflict with their kids to stay curious, explore possibilities and work to meet everyone’s real needs. “I want to stay out ‘til midnight’ is a short version of a longer story,” he explains. “Sometimes when you know the whole story possibilities emerge that were previously unexplored.”