the no-lose method…

The no-lose method of conflict resolution allows everyone to work together in order to find mutually agreed upon solutions which work for everyone.

First, you must set the stage for how the no-lose method will work:

  1. Begin by telling your child clearly and concisely that there is a problem that needs to be addressed.
  2. Make it understood that you wish to work with your child in order to find a solution that is acceptable to everyone.
  3. Agree on a time to work on the problem when there won’t be distractions.

There are six steps to the no-lose method:

  1. Identify and define the problem. During this time, the needs of everyone should be stated. Many times the true problem is different from what we originally perceive it to be. Parents should be conscious not to give solutions instead of defining needs. You should tell your child clearly and as strongly as you feel exactly what feelings you have and what needs of yours are not being met or what is bothering you. I-messages are useful in order to avoid put down messages or blame.  Active listening is a useful tool for distinguishing between needs and possible solutions and to make certain you understand your child’s needs. State the conflict or problem so that everyone agrees what the true issue is.
  2. Generate possible alternative solutions.  This is where brainstorming comes in. Everyone is welcome to offer possible solutions. In fact, parents should encourage their children to offer soultions first. Children are very insightful and may offer solutions that parents had not even considered. Avoid evaluating and showing preference for any solution. At this point in time, you are only brainstorming possibilities.
  3. Evaluate alternative solutions. Figure out what each person is willing to do. Narrow down solutions to one or two best possibilities. Be honest with one another about how you feel regarding each possible solution.
  4. Decide on best acceptable solution. By this point in the process, one solution may clearly stand out from all of the others and be accepted by all involved parties. If not, verbally test out some of the other solutions and see if they would work for everyone. remember that solutions are not final. Life isn’t static. If the tried solution doesn’t work for everyone, reevaluate and change. Multi-part solutions may need to be written down in order to help everyone remember. It should be clear to everyone that they are making a commitment to try the solution.
  5. Work out ways to implement the solution. Discuss the details needed in order to implement the solution and gather any necessary tools.
  6. Follow up to evaluate if the solution worked. Don’t forget to check back with everyone to see if the solution is working. If not, reeveluate and find something that works better for all those involved.

empathic communication…

Empathic communication helps parents relate to their children in a caring and effective manner.

  1. Begin by listening. Listening is the beginning of wisdom. We cannot effectively communicate unless we first listen to our children so that we can know their feelings, point of view, and what exactly it is that they are experiencing. In order to do this, we need to open our minds and hearts so that we can listen to all of what they say – to those things which are pleasant, as well as those things which are unpleasant. We then need to acknowledge our children’s feelings in order to open a dialogue, whether or not we agree with them. Their feelings are valid in their own right. Dismissing them only serves to shut down any attempt at communicating.
  2. By acknowledging a child’s perceptions, feelings, wishes, opinions, character, experiences, etc., we express respect for the child. Respect their ability to form their own solution.
  3. Avoid using criticism. Instead, use guidance by stating the problem and offering a possible solution. There is no need to say anything negative about the child or situation.
  4. Use I statements to describe what you see, feel, or expect in order not to place the other person in a defensive role rather than in a cooperative one. Own your feelings so that the other person can also have ownership of their feelings and actions.
  5. When showing appreciation, describe specific acts rather than evaluating. People appreciate recognition over evaluation.
  6. Make saying no less hurtful by granting the request in fantasy, even when it cannot be granted in reality. You can acknowledge the wish and feelings of the person rather than reacting to them.
  7. Children, as all people, need a choice and voice in matters that affect their lives. Granting this supports their autonomy and self-dependence.

take time to listen…

As parents, we sometimes get wrapped up in the management side of life – making certain everyone has clean clothes available, food, running errands, cleaning house, etc. I find that when I start to shift more to managing life rather than living life, I tend to miss out on a lot of things. 

When my third child was an infant, we were doing craniosacral therapy with our chiropractor for reflux. In the waiting room, there was a television in the children’s play area. One day after his treatment, we sat in the play area while I nursed him before heading back home. I told my two older children (then ages 5 and 3) that we needed to get going and asked them to finish up what they were doing. I was intent on the management side of life at the moment: packing up the diaper bag, thinking about getting everyone loaded into the van and buckled, driving 40 minutes home and hoping that my infant son would be okay for the ride before needing to nurse again. I didn’t notice that a fight was brewing between my other children until it began to escalate a bit.

Upon hearing their voices getting louder, I stopped what I was doing and tried to listen to what they were saying. They were fighting over the television. One was turning it off while the other was turning it back on, and they were arguing back and forth. As a firm believer in the fact that there is a reason for everything we do, even if we don’t necessarily recognize it, I asked them each to tell me in their own words what was happening. One child told me that it was important to turn off the television in order to save electricity. The other told me that someone else might want to watch the television and so it should be left on.

I reiterated what they were saying and clarified their intent. “You want to turn the television off in order to save electricity and be considerate of others.” “Yes!” “You want to be considerate of others by leaving the television on in case someone else might like to watch it.” “Yes!” ‘So, you are both trying to be considerate of others in different ways.” There was a pause as my children thought about that. I asked them if they thought there was a way we could work out a solution that allowed them both to be considerate of others. The consensus was that we should turn the television off in order to conserve electricity and that anyone else who came and wanted to watch the television could turn it back on. Crisis averted! My children proceeded to get in the van and we went home without any further incident.

Sometimes listening is our greatest parenting skill.

focusing on our children…

This post is part of the 2010 API Principles of Parenting blog carnival, a series of monthly parenting blog carnivals, hosted by API Speaks. Learn more about attachment parenting by visiting the API website.

My husband’s grandmother was visiting last January. She had been staying with my in-laws, and my children and I drove 45 minutes to pick her up so that we could spend the day with her and so that she could stay overnight with us. My children were really looking forward to having her stay with us. The morning we were to pick her up, I woke up to snow, with more coming down. We went ahead with our plans, though the drive took us longer than usual with the weather.

When we arrived, we went inside to visit with her before getting back on the road. My in-laws’ house isn’t the most kid friendly home. It’s covered in knick-knacks that no one is supposed to touch. There are children’s books, games and toys left-over from when my husband and his brothers were kids, but with few exceptions, those are also verboten. Needless to say, by the time we were getting ready to leave, my 2 1/2 year old was more than a little bored from just chatting with his great-grandmother.

As I had everyone rounded up at the door in order to get shoes and coats on, my younger son spied where my mother-in-law had stashed the old Fisher Price barn – one of the few items allowed to be played with. He insisted that he wanted to play with it and I could tell that he wasn’t going to change his mind. Eyeing my grandmother-in-law zipping up her coat, I took a breath and told him we could spare a couple of minutes for him to play.

I’m certain my husband’s grandmother didn’t approve. While she is one of the few (only?) relatives on that side of the family who supports us in our choices, she is still from a generation who believes that children should do as they are told without question. I imagined what she could be thinking during those minutes. I took another breath and smiled at my children, reminding myself that it didn’t matter what she thought. I was determined to do what was best for my children, and my relationship with my son was more important than what she might possibly think.

After a couple of minutes, I asked my son if he could make the animals walk into the barn. He cheerfully walked each animal into the barn, one at a time. Then I asked if the vehicles could drive into the barn, to which I heard a resounding, “No!” This was quickly followed by, “The people need to drive them in.” He then proceeded to have the people drive the animals into the barn, packed up the barn, and neatly put it away before asking for help with his shoes.

Had I insisted that we needed to leave right that second, the result would have been a power struggle between the two of us. By focusing on my child’s needs instead of what my grandmother-in-law might have been thinking, I not only avoided any power struggle, but I once again cemented trust by showing my son that I cared about his needs and feelings.