This morning we had an argument between Lucas and Danny, my partner’s sons. They were arguing about the fact that one of them was kicking a ball against a wall and how this was bothering his brother. The discussion quickly got heated and looked like it might get out of hand. Not really what we had in mind for a Sunday morning … so we decided to sit down and practice an important skill: conflict resolution.
A lot of times when kids (and let’s face it, it’s not only kids!) argue, they just want to “win” and say whatever necessary to prove the other one wrong. The first step is to make sure both get a turn to tell the story or issue from their point of view WITHOUT BEING INTERRUPTED. They have to understand that if they listen to the other one all the way to the end without interrupting them, it not only shows respect but they also get the opportunity to tell the story from their point of view without being interrupted and they learn something from the other person. And often it is something they didn’t even think about, and sometimes that’s where the argument ends. Often kids are so surprised to hear the story from the other person’s point of view because it brings up points that never even crossed their mind.
After both sides exchange their version of the story, they both get to decide what they want to get out of it. What do they want to happen as opposed to what is happening right now? They both get to describe their ideal outcome that best serves their interests and maybe even why they wish for that outcome. The last step is negotiating how to arrive at that ideal outcome and what each party has to contribute in order to make it happen.
So we got to work on that this morning and it was actually really enjoyable. The best part is: it really works. The boys were exchanging information and were negotiating instead of trying to put the other one down and “win” the situation. It was great to see.
Summary of the three simple steps:
- Each party gets to share their point of view WITHOUT being interrupted.
- Each party describes their ideal outcome: what do they want to happen vs. what is happening right now.
- Both negotiate their contribution in order to make a better outcome possible