When Angela* (not her real name) was a child, disagreements in her household ended in one way: with punishment.
Angela didn’t dare disagree with her mother because there would be yelling and then Angela would be grounded. Sometimes for a week, sometimes more.
Her mother didn’t take kindly to people who didn’t see things her way.
As an adult, Angela now has a crippling fear of conflict. To the point where in her marriage, she will let poor feelings fester and grow until they’re a fiery ball of rage and she explodes - starting the same kind of arguments with her husband that she used to have with her mother.
Conflict resolution to Angela is yelling, fighting, tears, and then someone stalking off until things cool down and it’s never spoken of again.
If you read the above (true) story, you probably had one of two thoughts:
(Maybe you had both thoughts at the same time.)
And perhaps you’re wondering what that story has to do with parenting.
I’ll tell you another story and then explain.
Sydney* had a mother who listened to her. Her mother took the time to understand where she was coming from and worked really hard to manage her reactions to disagreements.
Punishments weren’t often used in her childhood - in fact, she can remember only a few times she was sent to her room and even now as an adult - she admits she probably deserved it.
Each time there was a conflict Sydney can also recall a clear resolution - that she sat down with her mother after tempers had cooled and discussed the situation calmly in a way that led to changes on one or both sides of the disagreement.
Now, Sydney is able to share feelings before they build to the point of explosion - something that’s served her well with her long-term boyfriend as well as her coworkers and friends.
This is the power that parents have on positive conflict resolution.
Angela’s mother didn’t model or teach positive conflict resolution strategies, but Sydney’s mother did.
And it shows up in Angela and Sydney’s adult relationships.
At work. At home. With their families and their friends.
Angela struggles with conflict and resolution, while Sydney is comfortable in her capabilities.
Conflict resolution isn’t just about holding in your feelings with your significant other, or yelling at your children when they misbehave.
It’s about how you handle conflict at work - with a boss who’s being unreasonable or a coworker who seems set on sabotaging your projects.
It’s about how you stand up for yourself to bullies in the world. Those who cut in line at the grocery store or mutter under their breath or are openly rude.
It’s about how you manage your emotions and your reactions on a regular basis. Because the world is full of conflict.
And if you want your children to handle conflict well… it’s an essential part of parenting them NOW.
There are two aspects to empowering your children to resolve conflict in a healthy way:
BOTH of these are essential… and I cover both of them in my new program, Positive Discipline Made Easy.
And among the 30+ tools included in this program, a number of them are designed to help resolve conflict. But two of my favorites?
Family meetings and Focusing on Solutions.
Family meetings are designed to create a safe, predictable space for discussing problems, obstacles and conflicts that happen each week. There’s an agenda, a format, and a template for hosting these meetings that allows each voice in the family to be heard and each potential solution to be analyzed for its merits.
But one of the major benefits of using family meetings to resolve conflict is that it removes you from the conflict-causing situation AND gives you time to manage your response and emotions surrounding it.
Let’s say your daughter stayed out past curfew for the third night in a row. She knew what the curfew was, had the resources available to her to make it home in time, and by all accounts there was no reason for her to miss curfew.
You have one of two choices:
Which one will lead to a calmer conversation?
By choosing to place it on the family meeting agenda, you’re acknowledging that this is a problem which requires a solution (so you’re not “letting it go,”) BUT you’re not approaching it from the frantic, worried and frustrated emotional state you would with a direct confrontation.
AND by including the entire family, you’re building in accountability for the future - so the agreed-upon solution is something you can all stick to because you have approached it as a team.
Imagine your child using THAT method in the workplace with a difficult co-worker… and now you can see how family meetings are a skill that’s worth developing.
One of my favorite stories regarding the Focus on Solutions tool comes from Brad and his son Gibson.
Gibson had his own bathroom - lucky kid. And every day, there were dirty clothes laying on the wet floor. Every morning Brad saw this pile getting bigger and bigger - and Brad decided to see if Gibson would clean up the clothes without a reminder.
Sure enough - he did! But then he started a brand-new pile in the bathroom. Every couple of days he’d move the pile to the hamper and a new pile would begin. So Brad bought a second hamper for the bathroom… but the clothes stayed in a pile on the floor.
Brad had a few choices:
Brad chose option #3, by the way. And when he did… he was SHOCKED at Gibson’s proposed solution.
Buy a bathmat.
See, Gibson didn’t like walking on the floor after his shower, so he tossed his clothes down and used them as a bathmat.
It wasn’t about the clothes to begin with. It was about the bath mat!
Had Brad confronted Gibson and blamed him for his failure to put his clothes in the hamper… he would have missed out on the very easy, very reasonable solution.
By focusing on finding a solution, he removed blame from the equation entirely and found exactly what needed to happen to make everyone happy. Of course, Brad could have involved Gibson in the solution EARLIER - before watching him drop clothes on the floor every day, before buying a hamper. He could have said something to Gibson sooner and had a solution sooner.
But at the end of the day, Gibson has his bathmat and Brad has his full hamper. No blame - only solutions.
Brad and Gibson were on the same team. They worked together against the problem - instead of working separately against each other.
When you use these tools to solve the problem, the conflict resolves itself.
The focus is now on the solution instead of the disagreement that started it all.
And that’s teaching your child valuable lessons that they’ll use for the rest of their lives.
The important thing to note about the stories I’ve just shared is that the parents in them have intentionally invested their energy and time into teaching these skills.
They’ve done it on purpose. They’ve created the right atmosphere and spent the energy to walk their children step by step through the entire process of family meetings, focusing on solutions, and the other tools in the program.
Which means in addition to modeling the behavior you want to see (managing your reactions, taking a moment to gather your emotions, and communicating effectively)… you have to train them in the art of solution focused problem solving.
This is NOT something that will come naturally to every family. You may find that you default to just wanting to “get your way” and have your children obey you. Especially if you weren’t raised with healthy conflict resolution or problem solving skills to begin with.
But you can learn together. You and your children can learn these skills together, build them at the same time, and reap the rewards as a family.
It starts with you deciding that you want them to carry these skills throughout their lives.
And if you’ve made this decision - I’m here to guide you through implementing it in your family’s lives.
Family Meetings and Focusing on Solutions are just two of the over 30 parenting tools that I’ve compiled in my brand-new program - Positive Discipline Made Easy.
This program is borne of 40+ years of work with families, parents and children.
In those 40+ years I’ve written dozens of books, worked with classrooms and childcare centers around the world, trained Certified Positive Discipline Trainers in 87 countries, and helped millions of parents worldwide.
And I’ve begun my favorite collaboration thus far: with my daughter, Mary Nelsen Tamborski. She’s a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist and has worked with parents to hand them the specific, step-by-step instructions on how to put everything we teach into practice.
Because it’s one thing to recognize how effective family meetings are at resolving conflict.
It’s quite another to know how to start and structure them for the biggest results.
Because her work is so hands-on, and because we’ve seen time and again how much help parents need implementing our tools and guidelines, we decided we needed to find a way to provide practical, step by step help to as many parents as possible.
We wanted to make Positive Discipline easy.
To give you a comprehensive roadmap to help you put our most effective tools into practice… even if you’ve tried on your own for years.
That’s why we partnered with Flourish to make this video program - our first ever focused on helping parents like you implement Positive Discipline in your day to day lives.
We wanted to make it easy for you to learn, understand, and USE Positive Discipline in your family right away… without having to connect the dots by yourself, figure out how to make it work for you, and second-guess yourself.
We’ll show you exactly what you can use to handle each situation, and how it has played out using real-life examples and stories.
We’ll not only review the theory so you understand WHY it’s important to handle each situation in a specific way… but we’re giving you the actual step-by-step tool to help you make it happen in your family.
So you’re set up BEFORE the next disagreement happens. Before the laundry hits the floor or you’re late for the bus or a chore isn’t done.
Because those things will happen. And planning for them NOW - implementing these tools in your family NOW - will help you better handle it when it happens.
The best part about these tools is that they are mix & match. Because you’ll naturally find tools that feel good to you - every parent has their favorites. You may find that Family Meetings are enough to prevent conflict from spiraling out of control… but you may need to dig into the toolbox to find a couple more.
Each and every situation has at least one tool - but most have multiple tools that you can use to change the behavior AND strengthen the relationship between you and your child.
And we’re going to help you understand these tools faster and easier than you’d ever imagine, both through demonstrations and exercises that you’ll do right along with us, using the workbook we’ve designed to act as your own personal reference manual for parenting.
We’ll be your personal parenting coaches to help you parent your kids in a way that creates short-term harmony and fosters long-term success.Get Your Parenting Guide
In this 6-module course, we’ll show you:
With Positive Discipline Made Easy, you WILL have a more harmonious home and you WILL set your child up for long-term success and happiness.
If your goal is to not only raise a happy child but raise a successful, capable adult that can manage his emotions, solve problems, and resolve conflict…
Then Positive Discipline Made Easy is the last parenting program you’ll ever need.
I can’t wait for you to see the difference in your family.