Category Archives: Conflict

Corona: Discipline, don’t destroy

Discipline is more than a once off intervention. It is an ongoing display of secure boundaries and consistent consequences. In this stressful time, children may be picking up on our anxiety and the changes in routine which may lead to a greater need for these displays of love (i.e. secure boundaries and consistent consequences). Here is a quick review of discipline strategies.

Communicate clearly

So much conflict is caused by miscommunication. Set your child up for success, and the discipline struggles become more manageable.

Make sure you have their attention

Instead of shouting from a different room, make sure you have their full attention. This means stopping what they are doing (put the TV on pause), establishing eye contact (go down to their level), and perhaps even gentle touch (hold hands or cup their face). You can also test if they heard you correctly by making them repeat the instruction back to you.

Tell them what to do (vs what not to do)

Choose your words wisely. It’s the difference between “stop running” and “start walking”; “no shouting” and “inside voice please.” Children are eager to please! Let them know how to please you.

Give them a time line

Much frustration can be avoided by clarifying when you expect a task to be completed. If you expect immediate action, say so (now). Once a child has proved themselves trustworthy, you may want to provide them with more freedom (e.g. do this before supper at 17:00).

Provide them with a choice to give them an element of control

This tip came from Loving on Purpose by Danny Silk. While you are still fully in control as a parent, you can provide the child with some choices.

  • It’s time to clean up: do you want to bath or shower?
  • It’s good to share your toys: do you want to share this toy or must I pack it away?
  • I know you don’t want to sleep, but it’s bed time: do you want to hop to bed or crawl to bed?

Reward good behavior

So often we are on the lookout for poor behavior – no wonder discipline feels extraordinarily taxing. Why not focus on catching them being good! Reflecting on your child’s love language may provide you with useful tips on what to use as your reward currency.

  • Words of affirmation: praise, stickers on a star chart that they can display, love letters, social media posts of pride
  • Non-sexual touch: high fives, exuberant cuddles, back tickles
  • Gifts: let them draw something from a goody bag, sweeties, go buy a special toy
  • Quality time: read an extra story, have a parent-child date, let them choose the next movie
  • Acts of service: bake them something special, do their chores for a day,

Furthermore, allow children the opportunity to learn about the real world. E.g. make them “earn” their screen time by completing chores: 10 minutes for sweeping the floor, 30 minutes for cleaning the toilet. Similarly, receiving payment for completing (extra) chores gives them the opportunity to learn to work with money.

Ideas for consequences

As much as it is a child’s job to challenge the boundaries, it is a parent’s job to enforce them. As a child grows in maturity (this is not only with age, but also in proving trustworthiness), a child is granted greater freedom with weightier consequences. For consequences to be effective, it must be communicated in advance.

“Yes, you are welcome to ride your bicycle outside. I expect you to report back to me at 12:00 for lunch. If you don’t, you will eat your lunch for supper and not get any dessert.”

I have heard many success stories from a consequence jar:

Instead of disciplining in an ineffective way and wasting your precious time and energy, the child creates a list of unpleasant consequences (e.g. chores, cleaning, less TV time, going to bed earlier, etc). The child brings these suggestions to the parent for negotiation (will going to bed 10 minutes earlier might be a dream come true for some, so check that the suggestions will be true punishment!) and setting the weights of consequences.

E.g. disrespect might be awarded going to bed 30 minutes earlier while forgetting a chore might be awarded 10 minutes less screen time.

These consequences could be colour coded or numbered (more learning opportunities for little ones) according to the severity of the offence. Once the consequence jar is set up, the child draws a random consequence from the jar when they have committed an offence.

How to succeed with time outs 

As much as we the adults get over stimulated at times, children become overwhelmed too. A time out can be very effective in regaining composure and also an effective discipline strategy if you follow these steps.

Before Time Out:

  • Choose a safe and boring spot
  • Make a timer available
  • Select a back-up consequence
  • Introduce it to your child: “I don’t like it when you ______, so from now on, whenever you _____ you will have to go to time out for ____ minutes. Here is where you will have your time out. I won’t be able to talk to you while you are in time out. If you get out of time out, then you will _________ (say the backup consequence).”
  • Give a warning

During time out:

  • Supervise out of sight
  • Ignore your child: don’t look or talk to him
  • Deal with screaming: remind the child he needs to be quiet to end time out
  • Deal with leaving time out: enforce the back up consequence

After time out:

  • You may leave/get out when the timer beeps and you are quiet
  • Process the events that led up to the use of timeout
  • Reaffirm connection and love

Don’t suffer alone. If you are feeling overwhelmed, or need some encouragement, please contact me. 

Rules of engagement: Design your fight plan

In a world full of diverse people, make that a HOME full of diverse people, conflict is inevitable. Our needs often conflict with the available resources; be it time in front of the bathroom mirror, squeezing or rolling the toothpaste, or who should feed the dog this morning. Whether the source of conflict is large or small, it could be helpful to establish some ground rules and design a fight plan that everybody in your household agrees on. Continue reading Rules of engagement: Design your fight plan

Rules of engagement: I statements

Sharing difficult information can be exceptionally challenging and cause much conflict. “I statements” presents as one of many techniques that could empower you to honestly communicate your concerns and frustrations.

This simple technique requires some practice and may seem stiff initially. It is beneficial as it forces you to think about how a person’s specific behaviour (not character) affects you (take responsibility for your own reactions). It also challenges you to think about potential solutions and provides opportunity for the other person to contribute to the conversation. Continue reading Rules of engagement: I statements

The rhino and the porcupine: Dealing with conflict

Aristotle said:

Anybody can become angry – that is easy. To be angry with the right person and at the right time and for the right purpose and in the right way – that is not within everybody’s power and is not easy.

How do you manage conflict?

I agree that it is hard to manage your anger wisely, but firmly believe that anybody can learn to get better handles on their anger. Broadly put, people are often comfortable with the role of rhinoceros or porcupine during conflict. To illustrate I made up an example:

Rhinoceros: I can’t believe you made us late again! (Slams the car door)

Porcupine: I wanted to make sure the house is ready when your mother comes to visit...

Rhinoceros: Could you not have done it earlier? (Interrupts, exasperated)

Porcupine: (Rolls eyes. Sighs)

Rhinoceros: You know how important it is to me! Why are you so inconsiderate!?

Porcupine: (Looks out the car window, clenches fists)

Rhinoceros: What, now you are not talking to me?

Porcupine: (Becomes tearful)

Rhinoceros or porcupine

The rhinoceros is typically loud and confrontational when angry, while the porcupine withdraws and sends out hurtful barbs. While it is pretty obvious that rhinos can be hurtful during conflict, porcupines often fail to recognize their contribution to the escalating conflict. Porcupines may believe that their noble silence places them on a moral high ground, but Shannon Alder puts it so well:

“Be leery of silence. It doesn’t mean you won the argument. Often, people are just busy reloading their guns.”

Assertive middle ground
Slippery slope of conflict

But there is a wise intermediary between aggressive and passive behaviour: Assertiveness. As described in Ken Sande’s Peacemaker website, there are a number of useful things you can do to resolve conflict. In particular I want to highlight the PAUSE principle:

  1. Prepare: This means that you need to take time out to calm down and think straight!
  2. Affirm relationship: What is the point in resolving conflict if the relationship is not important to you. Remember why you want peace in your relationship.
  3. Understand interests: It’s not all about you. Use this break time to empathetically consider the other person’s needs, limitations, and desires
  4. Search for creative solutions: Return to the situation with potential solutions for discussion. Don’t make it their problem to fix it all on their own.
  5. Evaluate options: This is not an opportunity for a new fight (or to say those great comebacks you only thought of later), rather a collaboration toward restoration

So next time you feel the anger bubbling inside of you and you want to storm (rhinoceros) or withdraw (porcupine), I challenge you to take a time out and apply the PAUSE principle.