From research of teens and parents, as well as other cultures, I’ve drawn some conclusions about how working parents can maximize their time with their kids, and especially teens, and that is: Kill Conflict when it starts, writes experienced family couch Eva-Maria, the author of the bestselling parenting book “You Shut Up!”.
Although life in the 21st century should seem like it’s easier than how it was, say, 20 years ago, the reality is that in today’s world, we’re busier than ever. Sure, technology helps us out – instead of walking somewhere, we can drive and get there faster, instead of waiting for butter to melt in a saucepan, we just microwave it for a few seconds; but due to technology sometimes relieving us of that little bit of stress, pressure or work, we’re expected to do more. And no one understands this more than working parents.
As a working parent, you have little time to make a big impact. And no matter how much amount of quantity or quality time you spend with your kids, and especially your teens who are just as busy; you want all the time you spend with your kids to be productive.
Through research for both my books, I’ve found that I talk a lot about building healthy relationships with teens, but what happens when conflict creeps into the picture? It can take a long time to develop trust, understanding, communication with another person, but it can also take just one smirk, one bad word, or one small misunderstanding to turn a relationship sour.
So what have I learned to help stop this? From research of teens and parents, as well as other cultures, I’ve drawn some conclusions about how working parents can maximize their time with their kids, and especially teens, and that is: Kill Conflict when it starts. Although people say that misunderstandings are healthy because it shows how we’re all different, I believe it’s actually the steps you take to bring the conflict to a mutual understanding that is the healthy part.
As a working parent, imagine (and perhaps this has happened to you before) leaving for work, while in the middle of a feud with your teenage daughter. You come home late in the evening, and while having dinner with the family, you get conversation out of everyone but her. Later, when you go to check up to make sure your kids are asleep, she’s still fuming and giving you the silent treatment. You go to sleep, hoping the mood will change in the morning, but it still doesn’t, and you’re both too proud to start sorting the conflict out by then…
A typical scenario in a typical working-parents family. But it doesn’t have to be that way! The next time you’re stuck in a conflict with your child or teenager, wouldn’t you want to settle the conflict right then and there, so you or they won’t have to worry about it for the rest of the day, the week, the month? Wouldn’t you want to become the super parent who manages conflict like it’s a breeze, nipping it in the bid as soon as something is about to blow up?
I’ve come up with 9 ways of what you can do to help kill conflict as it comes up with your children, and more importantly, your teenagers. You can use these in any order, in any combination, but just make sure to understand and use them, and I hope you will notice the difference in shorter conflict times, in no time! So here they are…
LISTEN: Take some time to listen to the other person’s side of the story. Especially if that other person is a teenager. Sometimes we only hear what we want to hear, whether we admit it or not. With teenagers, they want to always be the first to talk, and tell everyone their side of the story. Give them that opportunity, because once they’ve finished, you hold an advantageous position.
For one thing, you are now armed with their arguments, which you can strategically address (remember to use the same vocabulary they used, otherwise they may not draw the conclusion that you are in fact addressing, or talking about the same issue they brought up), and because you gave them the respect to listen to their side, they will now by default have to show respect to you and listen to you. Win-win situation!
ASK to clarify if you feel a misunderstanding coming on: Adults and children sometimes use different words in their conversations. If you are unsure of something you heard, ask a question to clarify. Best way to make sure a conflict doesn’t erupt in the first place due to a miscommunication!
TONE: Watch your tone of voice. People say that there’s three things that influence the message that you’re trying to convey when communicating: words, tone and body language. Since you learned to speak, I’m guessing you’ve learned to string words in a compelling argument, and know how to refrain from open body language that sends mixed messages when you’re angry, but do you notice your tone of voice?
Make sure your tone is consistent with what you’re saying – make it too light, and your child, or teen will think you’re being sarcastic or not taking the topic seriously. Try using a tone that’s too angry, and it will turn them off listening to you. They say tone sends 38% of the message you're trying to convey, so don’t forget to make it consistent with the message.
WORDS: think before you speak...I think we ALL got taught that at primary school.
TIMING: We all know what it's like to be caught at a bad time, and if the conflict is happening when you’re just about the run out the door, or in the middle of something really urgent or important, instead of ignoring the problem, make sure you acknowledge it and re-schedule to come back to it. Ignoring the problem will just create a ticking time bomb out of the situation. Suggesting to carry on the conversation in 2 minutes, 2 hours or 2 days may be the most acceptable thing to do in the situation – try it!
TAKE TURNS at talking. Just like with the ‘Listen’ Tip; give the other person room to convey their ideas, and you will get the same chance too.
HONESTY is the best policy. Honesty - not emotional criticism.
RESPECT: be humane – allow both of you the time and space to express your individual viewpoint.
ACKNOWLEDGE: The conflict may be a blessing in disguise: look for the ultimate win-win outcome of how you can compromise your way through the conflict so that you both come out winning. Just remember that this is only achievable through straightforward, honest communication.
How many of these have worked for you?
And the best part - all of these tips and points can help you out every day; you can download and print out a poster of these 9 ways from my website and put it up on your fridge, your office desk, a wall; anywhere! Just go to www.eva-maria.co.nz and sign up at the right hand side to the 10 Million Mission for your free download!