Article by Alison Burton
One of the many challenges of being a parent is managing conflict.
If only one person lived on the planet there would be no conflict. Put two or more people together and eventually they will disagree about something. Conflict is inevitable. How it’s resolved is optional.
I recently listened to a talk by James O’Dea about the skills needed to become a Peacemaker. James has worked with Amnesty International, has forged dialogues between Palestinians and Israelis, and is an advisor to the Obama Administration. The Peacemaking skills he talked about apply equally to dealing with fights between siblings as they do to healing long-standing conflicts between countries. I was fascinated that he works at a surprisingly enlightened, spiritual and energetic level and confirmed many of the things I already teach parents.
Conflict with a child usually begins between eighteen months and two. This is the time they learn to say “No.” It used to be called the Terrible Twos. It’s a stage of development where children first discover independence. During this important stage parents and children learn how to negotiate differences. Whether you like it or not, children learn how to manage arguments from the adults in their life. You are their role models. Some children learn to hit and shout, some learn to shy away, and others learn to negotiate wisely. Let’s face it, we all fit somewhere along the scale of human evolution between “savage” and “enlightened being”. If you are a parent, then aiming towards a more enlightened way of being is probably a good idea.
When you find yourself at loggerheads with a child, the following guidelines may be useful.
Stay Centered and Calm
In his well known book Toddler Taming, Dr Christopher Green says something to the effect that one thing worse than seeing a toddler having a tantrum in public is seeing his parents having a tantrum in response. It may seem like a strange thing to say but your child’s behaviour is not a reflection of you. How you behave is a reflection of you, so if you yell and smack and threaten that’s 100% your responsibility. Never blame a child for making you behave in a particular way. You are the adult. When you to stay in control of your emotions you behave much more rationally and lovingly.
Speak From Your Inner Essence.
We all have an inner essence. Some people call it the soul. It exists beneath our thoughts and beliefs and conditioning. It has no pride or ego. That inner essence is perfect, loving and wise. Find the part of you that intuitively knows what’s best. Speak and act from your heart and not your head. That part of you doesn’t need to be in control or be right. It is kind and compassionate.
Be Sensitive to the Underlying Fear or Need
All negative behaviour stems from one of three underlying fears:
Am I safe?
Do I belong?
Am I good enough?
A child that cries when you drop them off at preschool or crèche is afraid they are not safe. I watched a little girl at a restaurant recently asking over and over to play mini golf while Mum and Dad sat chatting with friends and ignoring her. As much as I hate to admit it, a part of me thought, “Will someone shut that child up!” The enlightened part of me, however knew she was that afraid she didn’t belong. No-one was listening or responding to her. She was an outcast which is the very worst punishment for a human being. Once her Dad engaged her in looking at photos on his phone she forgot about minigolf and stopped the “bad behaviour.”
Speak to the Child’s Inner Essence
Remember to focus on the inner essence of your child. They also have an intuitive sense of what is right. Help them stay connected that. Always be respectful. Whenever you put down or criticize a child you add to one of the three basic fears. They will feel increasingly that they are not safe, they don’t belong, or they are not good enough. This escalates the negative behaviour.
Deflect or Absorb an Attack
There is a Martial Art called Aikido. It’s a self-defense technique of never resisting an attack head on. Practitioners of Aikido learn to move with the force of attack and turn slightly to deflect the energy. They use very little of their own energy in a conflict but continue until the “enemy” is exhausted. You can do the same in an argument. I was camping recently and the family in the tent next door had a very unhappy child having a full blown tantrum. Dad calming stood by and when the child became quiet he gently said “Ok, is it over now?” I was impressed.
Practice managing conflicts peacefully until you get really good at resolving conflict peacefully. Be gentle with yourself if you slip up. If need be apologise to your child and say you would have liked to handle a situation differently. Don’t worry you’ll get plenty of opportunities to practice. Remember that you can also apply these guidelines to conflicts in other areas of your life, not just with your children.
By Alison Burton
Clinical Hypnotherapist and Director of Simply Natural Therapies
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