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Conflict Resolution: 5 Rules From a Mom to Resolve Conflicts at Home

Conflict Resolution: 5 Rules From a Mom to Resolve Conflicts at Home

If I had a nickel for every time I have told my kids, “Figure it out among yourselves. I am not your referee,” I’d have a hefty savings account! Instead, I have no money (blame the kids – they eat a lot and keep growing out of their clothes), but I do have kids who can resolve conflicts among themselves, usually, without my constant intervention. Sure, I do have to break up the occasional battle over something stupid, like the perfect stick (yes, they play outside and have great imaginations), or Lego pieces. Life with six kids is bound to be loud and riddled with arguments and fighting in between the adorable pictures. Ours is. I have tried (at times more successfully than others) to transfer skills learned as a special educator to life as a mom. Here are my best rules for resolving conflicts at home:

1. Have rules for arguments

Yes, arguments happen, so before they do, make sure everyone knows what is expected. Not every mom has taken a class in conflict resolution (I have), but many could teach one. These tips and rules can work for simple disagreements about toys, up to teenage problems with siblings, or boy/girlfriends to parent/child (and even husband/wife) interactions. Yes, parents do get the final say in my house, but there are times when I may entertain an argument. Here are some basic rules of engagement:

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  • No name calling. People can disagree or be angry without using hurtful words or behavior.
  • Respect each other. After all, we are family and still love each other at the end of the day.
  • Calmly state what you want or why you are upset. Communicate slowly, clearly, honestly.
  • Listen without interrupting. Hear him or her without planning your reply while they speak.

2. Be willing to get creative

Once both parties know what the other person wants, it might be a simple misunderstanding. Maybe both want the same things in the end but were bumping heads on the path to get there. It might, however, require a bit more finesse. Encourage creative or unique ways for both to get their way. Yes, this requires adult intervention, but after a few times, it might only take a little verbal prompt like, “Think outside the box,” to train your kids to do this on their own. Encourage fairness but recognize that there may be a winner/loser, first/last situation that doesn’t have an all-parties-equally-happy solution.

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3. One or both parties may have to compromise

It’s life. Not everyone gets what they want when they want, but families can usually work out something that will work for everyone; not perfectly, but within reason. Try to see the situation from the other person’s perspective to at least understand where they are coming from. This ability to empathize with others will serve your kids well in the real world, possibly inspiring them to make it a better place for all of us to live. I know this personally, from my work with families who host au pairs as live-in childcare help. The language and cultural barriers these folks overcome to bring their children a cultural childcare experience is rather inspiring. Children who have seen compromise in action are often great ambassadors and peace-makers in social circles and later in their careers.

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4. Some situations require time and space

It is true that if you have nothing nice to say, you should say nothing. It is also true that there may be times when one person is just too mad or upset to talk calmly or rationally. In this case, time out is good. Maybe not literally, but it may be appropriate for one party to walk away and just agree to disagree, or talk about it later. We all know someone, or remember a situation, where one person continued to escalate a situation and all hell broke loose. To avoid a major incident, or domestic, civil or criminal charges, one or both people may need to accept defeat. In the end, the sun will come up tomorrow and you will still be family members. It may look different when you see the situation tomorrow, or it may not, but it’s best not to make it worse today.

5. Open and honest communication is always the solution

People will disagree, there is no doubt about that. Just look at the news any time of any day. How we resolve our conflicts is more than just kids learning to play nicely with others, though. These skills will do us well in our global society, rich with opportunities to resolve a plethora of problems. Kids (and adults alike) need to learn the truth of Mick Jagger’s famous 1969 lyric, “You can’t always get what you want,” without being sore losers. When it’s not possible to get your way, what are you going to do about it? Will crying and stomping your feet help? Not likely. Creative thinking, talking with others, and an honest, positive approach is the best direction. At least, that’s what this veteran mom advises.

Featured photo credit: Shutterstock via pixabay.com

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Joan Lowell

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Published on January 30, 2019

How to Support a Working Mother as a Working Father

How to Support a Working Mother as a Working Father

In roughly 60 percent of two-parent households with children under the age of 18, both parents work full time. But who takes time off work when the kids are sick in your house? And if you are a manager, how do you react when a man says he needs time to take his baby to the pediatrician?

The sad truth is, the default in many companies and families is to value the man’s work over the woman’s—even when there is no significant difference in their professional obligations or compensation. This translates into stereotypes in the workplace that women are the primary caregivers, which can negatively impact women’s success on the job and their upward mobility.

According to a Pew Research Center analysis of long-term time-use data (1965–2011), fathers in dual-income couples devote significantly less time than mothers do to child care.[1] Dads are doing more than twice as much housework as they used to (from an average of about four hours per week to about 10 hours), but there is still a significant imbalance.

This is not just an issue between spouses; it’s a workplace culture issue. In many offices, it is still taboo for dads to openly express that they have family obligations that need their attention. In contrast, the assumption that moms will be on the front lines of any family crisis is one that runs deep.

Consider an example from my company. A few years back, one of our team members joined us for an off-site meeting soon after returning from maternity leave. Not even two hours into her trip, her husband called to say that the baby had been crying nonstop. While there was little our colleague could practically do to help with the situation, this call was clearly unsettling, and the result was that her attention was divided for the rest of an important business dinner.

This was her first night away since the baby’s birth, and I know that her spouse had already been on several business trips before this event. Yet, I doubt she called him during his conferences to ask child-care questions. Like so many moms everywhere, she was expected to figure things out on her own.

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The numbers show that this story is far from the exception. In another Pew survey, 47 percent of dual-income parents agreed that the moms take on more of the work when a child gets sick.[2] In addition, 39 percent of working mothers said they had taken a significant amount of time off from work to care for their child compared to just 24 percent of working fathers. Mothers are also more likely than fathers (27 percent to 10 percent) to say they had quit their job at some point for family reasons.

Before any amazing stay-at-home-dads post an angry rebuttal comment, I want to be very clear that I am not judging how families choose to divide and conquer their personal and professional responsibilities; that’s 100 percent their prerogative. Rather, I am taking aim at the culture of inequity that persists even when spouses have similar or identical professional responsibilities. This is an important issue for all of us because we are leaving untapped business and human potential on the table.

What’s more, I think my fellow men can do a lot about this. For those out there who still privately think that being a good dad just means helping out mom, it’s time to man up. Stop expecting working partners—who have similar professional responsibilities—to bear the majority of the child-care responsibilities as well.

Consider these ways to support your working spouse:

1. Have higher expectations for yourself as a father; you are a parent, not a babysitter.

Know who your pediatrician is and how to reach him or her. Have a back-up plan for transportation and emergency coverage.

Don’t simply expect your partner to manage all these invisible tasks on her own. Parenting takes effort and preparation for the unexpected.

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As in other areas of life, the way to build confidence is to learn by doing. Moms aren’t born knowing how to do this stuff any more than dads are.

2. Treat your partner the way you’d want to be treated.

I can’t tell you the number of times I’ve heard a man on a business trip say to his wife on a call something to the effect of, “I am in the middle of a meeting. What do you want me to do about it?”

However, when the tables are turned, men often make that same call at the first sign of trouble.

Distractions like this make it difficult to focus and engage with work, which perpetuates the stereotype that working moms aren’t sufficiently committed.

When you’re in charge of the kids, do what she would do: Figure it out.

3. When you need to take care of your kids, don’t make an excuse that revolves around your partner’s availability.

This implies that the children are her first priority and your second.

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I admit I have been guilty in the past of telling clients, “I have the kids today because my wife had something she could not move.” What I should have said was, “I’m taking care of my kids today.”

Why is it so hard for men to admit they have personal responsibilities? Remember that you are setting an example for your sons and daughters, and do the right thing.

4. As a manager, be supportive of both your male and female colleagues when unexpected situations arise at home.

No one likes or wants disruptions, but life happens, and everyone will face a day when the troubling phone call comes from his sitter, her school nurse, or even elderly parents.

Accommodating personal needs is not a sign of weakness as a leader. Employees will be more likely to do great work if they know that you care about their personal obligations and family—and show them that you care about your own.

5. Don’t keep score or track time.

At home, it’s juvenile to get into debates about who last changed a diaper or did the dishes; everyone needs to contribute, but the big picture is what matters. Is everyone healthy and getting enough sleep? Are you enjoying each other’s company?

In business, too, avoid the trap of punching a clock. The focus should be on outcomes and performance rather than effort and inputs. That’s the way to maintain momentum toward overall goals.

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The Bottom Line

To be clear, I recognize that a great many working dads are doing a terrific job both on the home front and in their professional lives. My concern is that these standouts often aren’t visible to their colleagues; they intentionally or inadvertently let their work as parents fly under the radar. Dads need to be open and honest about family responsibilities to change perceptions in the workplace.

The question “How do you balance it all?” should not be something that’s just asked of women. Frankly, no one can answer that question. Juggling a career and parental responsibilities is tough. At times, really tough.

But it’s something that more parents should be doing together, as a team. This can be a real bonus for the couple relationship as well, because nothing gets in the way of good partnership faster than feelings of inequity.

On the plus side, I can tell you that parenting skills really do get better with practice—and that’s great for people of both sexes. I think our cultural expectations that women are the “nurturers” and men are the “providers” needs to evolve. Expanding these definitions will open the doors to richer contributions from everyone, because women can and should be both—and so should men.

Featured photo credit: NeONBRAND via unsplash.com

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