Sunday Snippet: The Benefits of Conflict!
At Camp WeHaKee we create a wonderful community where everyone has countless opportunities to try new things, meet new people and have great fun.
Sounds a bit Utopian, but we must admit, that when you bring a large group of people together from a wide variety of backgrounds, experiences and values, conflict can and will arise from time to time. It is a wonderful community, but seldom is it perfect!
Conflict (or what a past psych professor referred to as ‘incongruity’) actually helps each of us and especially kids, to grow. Conflict is seldom desired, so when it arises we instinctively seek a way to reduce or eliminate the conflict. Reducing or eliminating conflict does not always result in resolving the conflict however. Many children, adolescents and young adults (and yes, some of us adults!) lack the skill set to effectively navigate our way to a conflict resolution. Fortunately, there are methods to guide our kids in achieving the resolution that effectively reduces or eliminates the incongruity.
A recent post on the Growing Leaders website, reminded me of the work we do with our staff to help our campers resolve their way through periods of conflict. In the article entitled How to Problem Solve a Problem Child (Growing Leaders, Oct. 12, 2017), author, Tim Elmore speaks about approaches to effectively working with a ‘problem child’ (as he describes, “a child who is particularly difficult to raise or educate, especially due to a pattern of a lack of self-control or disruptive, anti-social behavior”). But I suggest that his techniques work well with any child or children who are exhibiting problems, particularly conflicts with others. Here is what he shares:
1. Don’t take your child’s behavior personally.
They are “acting out” and almost anything can trigger their outburst. Be sure to lead as objectively as you can. Act don’t react. Meeting emotion with emotion is like fighting fire with fire. It doesn’t solve the crisis.
2. Establish a neutral emotional environment before addressing the issue.
You may need to remove both you and your child from the current context, so as not to make a scene in public. Sometimes, onlookers who stare only make things worse. Before you attempt to resolve the issue, let some time pass and get into a new location.
3. Prioritize the issues.
[Learn} to not sweat the small stuff and to focus on what [is] most important and urgent. Be a “river” not a “flood.” What’s their key behavior change?
4. Explain the outcomes of their choices.
Put the issue in terms of what they most want. If they are crying or angrily arguing for something, help them see that their current mode of operation isn’t effective in reaching their goal. Talk in terms of equations (i.e. “If you do that, this is the benefit or the consequence . . . ”), rather than in terms of rules or regulations.
5. Establish healthy boundaries.
Don’t make empty threats in which you won’t follow through. Let them know, however, what the behavior boundaries are. My son showed all the signs of ADHD in elementary school, but we set firm boundaries and stuck to them—such as noise level, running around and treatment of peers. To be fair, we all followed these boundaries.
6. Convince them you are their ally.
The easiest trap to fall into in troubled times is to form an adversarial relationship. It’s me against you. Sometimes we become more concerned about how the situation looks rather than your relationship with your children. Find a way to relay to them that you are on their side. You want what’s best for them. You love them.
7. Seek connection—not control.
Research tells us something remarkable about dealing with problem children. It appears that the better we get at building a flourishing relationship with our kids, the fewer problems and challenges they exhibit. Control is a myth. In the long run, seeking connection is the best way to reduce conflict.
8. Get some time apart.
Sometimes, both you and your troubled child need time apart. We become more objective and honest when emotions subside and triggers are removed. While a stronger relationship should be the overall goal, often a little time apart helps. What’s the saying—absence makes the heart grow fonder?
We hope this may be helpful the next time you need to guide a another through an effective resolution to a conflict. Thank you for joining us again and have a great week!