How well do you handle conflict, dad?
When faced with tense situations, many guys withdraw or avoid confrontations. Some do the opposite—they lose control or explode, and do damage to those around them.
You might not think about this a lot, but handling conflict is an important responsibility for fathers. Our family members often take their cues from us; our actions and our overall mood during those times can inflame a situation or lead to resolving it.
I know many of us don’t handle conflict in the best way. I struggle with it myself sometimes. But I love simple solutions; often the best ideas are the simple ones, although simple often does not mean easy.
So here are seven simple ideas. These would fit well in the category, “all I really need to know I learned in kindergarten,” but I’m afraid too few of us really learned them well even if we heard them early in life.
And these actually came from an elementary school playground. One dad noticed them when he was volunteering as a WatchDOG at his child’s school, and he sent them our way. The dad thought they had a lot of application to his fathering, and I agree.
See if these uncover any areas where you need to grow when it comes to conflict in your family relationships:
1. Listen. By listening, you avoid flying off the handle, and you’re more likely to handle the situation without a lot of misunderstanding, which almost always makes things more difficult.
2. Talk it over. Once again, too many conflicts are based on not really understanding each other. Make sure you express your concerns without blaming or a lot of wild emotions.
To me, #3 and #4 go together: Share and take turns. In other words, think about the other person’s perspective, and be willing to compromise. Work toward a win-win solution.
5. Apologize. This is a big one for dads. An apology needs to include a sincere “I’m sorry,” and more. Show that you truly do regret what happened and you want to do your part to make things better.
6. Walk away. We don’t want to avoid conflict, but we also have to realize that we can’t always solve every issue right away. Sometimes, because of heated emotions or other reasons, it’s good to agree to take a break and talk more later.
7. Get help. Sometimes you need an outside perspective or more qualified expertise to help get past a sticking point in a relationship. Have the courage to get that help when you need to.
Sometimes the best answers really are things they teach in elementary school!
Just remember: good fathering isn’t always about doing things right; more often, it’s about learning from our mistakes and growing through the tough times.
Conflict resolution is so important in many different areas of life—in families, in work environments, and just about everywhere. And if we can coach our kids to use these skills, they will be spared a lot of trouble and heartache. Many of us can surely look back on issues and challenges we’ve been through, and see that these tips and skills would have made a big difference.
So, which of these is most relevant for you—for your own life or as you seek to teach your children about life? Share your thoughts and join the discussion either below or on our Facebook page.
Action Points for Dads on the Journey
- When talking with your child (and his or her friends), make a conscious effort to be less hurried, less preoccupied. Focus on listening, learning something, and looking for positives.
- Remember that good can come from conflicts. When a child hits an emotional peak, positive or negative, that’s precisely when a word of comfort or apology or encouragement can lead to a closer bond between you and him or her.
- A great question to ask yourself during a conflict: “Is this more about my pride or my need to be ‘right’?”
- Remind your kids often of attitudes and actions that will help them avoid conflict, like: “Treat others like you would want to be treated.”
- Let your kids work through many of the minor, everyday disagreements on their own. Those can be good opportunities to develop problem-solving skills.
Carey Casey is the CEO of the National Center for Fathering, a nonprofit organization dedicated to changing the culture of fathering in America by enlisting 6.5 million fathers to make the Championship Fathering Commitment. NCF believes that every child needs a dad they can count on, and uses its resources to inspire and equip men to be the involved fathers, grandfathers and father figures their children need. Subscribe to his weekly email tip by clicking here: “Yes! I want tips on how to be a great dad who lives out loving, coaching and modeling for my children.