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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 September 21, 2018

11 Smart Pieces of Advice to Help You Thrive as a Single Mother

11 Smart Pieces of Advice to Help You Thrive as a Single Mother

Becoming a mother is one of the most difficult challenges a woman can take on in her life. Whether this happens the “natural” way, with the help of science, or through adoption, being in charge of nurturing another human being is a herculean task to take on.

Typically, when we think about parenthood, we imagine two parents sharing the responsibility and having each other to lean on. However, according to the 2016 U.S. Census Bureau, 1 in 4 children under the age of 18 are being raised by a single mother.[1] This is a significant portion of the population that often gets overlooked.

If you are one of these mothers raising your children on your own, you are undoubtedly aware of the additional challenges that motherhood has placed upon you, including the constant struggle to find sufficient time, energy, money, and support.

For single mothers who find themselves bogged down by their daily responsibilities and struggle to stay afloat, don’t be fooled by the belief that you have to do all. It is possible to thrive and live as a single mother if you take advantage of all available resources and adjust your priorities based on your situation.

1. Find your community and ask for help

As the sole caretaker of your kids, going through the successes and struggles of parenthood can feel isolating and lonely. You have probably developed a strong sense of independence because you’ve had to go at it alone.

Being self-reliant is necessary in many situations that you have to face, but do not fool yourself into thinking that you don’t need support from others. If you have family nearby, strengthen your relationship with them by visiting and talking more often. Find time to catch up with old friends or co-workers, and don’t assume they don’t want to hang out if they are not parents themselves.

Would you prefer finding mom friends[2] who have more in common with you? Use resources like apps, Facebook groups, and community events to meet local moms in your area.

After you have established a support group that you can depend on, don’t be afraid to ask for help. It is NOT a sign of weakness or incompetency to admit you can’t do it all, and others are probably more willing to lend a hand than you think.

If you feel uncomfortable burdening others, suggest trading favors such as taking turns babysitting. Because after all, helping is each other is what community is all about.

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2. Make peace with the past

Before you can move forward, you must make peace with your past and not let it define you or rule your life. Whether your journey to single motherhood was through divorce, death, or never having a relationship the father, it is crucial that you leave behind the feelings of abandonment or betrayal you may be struggling with.

You cannot change the past and the hurt you had to endure, but you can use the strength that you gained from overcoming those obstacles to work towards making the best life for yourself and your child. Learn from the past but live in the present and look towards the future.

3. Make plans and set goals

The daily repetition of trying to balance work and home life can make you feel like you are on operating on autopilot. However, it is imperative to set goals for yourself and to keep working towards self-improvement.

In your personal life, you can set a fitness goal (train for a 5k), a reading goal (read 20 books in a year), or a travel goal (take a trip to Europe). At your job, you can set career goals such as gain leadership experience, get a promotion, or earn a degree or certificate.

Spend time creating a realistic plan to on how you can go about achieving these goals. Not only will working towards these goals make you a more well-rounded and successful person, they will bring more purpose and fulfillment to your life.

4. Look for role models

A great way to jump start your plans for the future is to find a role model or mentor who is further along in their life or career experience. This person can be a great resource when you need guidance on what types of goals to set for yourself and how to achieve them.

It’s also important to have people to turn to for encouragement during difficult seasons of life. Someone who has been through it before can provide the most genuine reassurance that tough times will get better and that staying positive is best approach.

5. Rethink your priorities

Single parents have twice as many responsibilities to take care of, so priorities and expectations must be adjusted accordingly.

Know that you are not superwoman and striving for a perfectly clean home, no dirty laundry, and home-cooked meals for your kids every day is not a reasonable expectation. It’s okay to take shortcuts sometimes, like serving your kids cereal for dinner or waiting until the next day to wash the dishes.

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Don’t compare yourself to anyone else and let go of the guilt that you feel for being the only parent that your kids can count on. Give yourself a break and don’t sweat the small stuff.

6. Make time for me time

Even though it can be difficult to find, making time for yourself is critical to maintaining your sanity and well-being. Without a built-in partner to take over, finding time to be away from the kids must be done intentionally and planned in advance.

If you are sharing custody, use the time away from your kids not only doing productive things but also making sure you are taking care of yourself. Sleep, exercise, and balanced diet are not things that can get pushed to the bottom of the priority list. Also make time for fun activities, such as hobbies and creative outlets.

Even though being a mother is the most important job you have, don’t let it be the only thing that defines you. Time for yourself is more difficult to find if you are the sole caretaker of your kids.

Use the resources that you have to devote time to self-care, and you and your kids will thank you for it in the long run.

7. Stay organized

With so many things to juggle, great organizational skills are an absolute must in order to keep everything moving smoothly. Use apps such as Mint for your finances, Mealime for meal planning, and Cozi as a family organizer for everything from appointments and shopping lists to after school activities.

Maintain constant contact if you are sharing custody so that it is clearly communicated who will be responsible for what when it comes to your kids. Follow consistent routines in the morning and nighttime so that your kids also know what to expect on a daily basis.

8. Be flexible (Don’t be a control freak)

Although it is important to be prepared and stay organized, things don’t always go according to plan.

When kids get sick and have to stay home or babysitters cancel at the last minute, allow for flexibility by having a contingency plan for childcare and with your employer.

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For example, make a list of people you can call when you need last minute childcare, or talk to your boss in advance about working from home when emergencies come up.

Most of all, don’t let unexpected changes stress you out and ruin your day.

9. Learn to say no (Don’t feel guilty)

Single mothers have limitations in time, energy and resources that families with two parents wouldn’t be able to understand. Because of these circumstances, it’s important you let go of feelings of guilt and stop trying to do everything and be everywhere.

You don’t have to say yes to every single birthday party your child is invited to. Your kids don’t have to be involved in sports and extracurricular activities every night of the week.

Limit the things you do to only the ones that are the most enjoyable and meaningful for you and your family. Doing more things does not make you a better mother; simply a more tired one.

10. Live within your means

When you have to raise your family on a single income, budgeting and spending within your means becomes more important than ever.

If you have outstanding debt that is accruing interest, make it a priority to pay those off as soon as possible. Outlining a budget is the best way to visualize how much money is being spent every month on various things and what is left over.

Find ways to save money on the necessities by looking for sales at the grocery store, buying some things secondhand, planning out meals.

After the necessary bills are paid, determine how much can be spent on luxury items such as eating out, vacations, and going to the movies.

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Don’t let finances be a source of anxiety for you and your family. Keep your bank account in good shape while teaching your kids how to spend money responsibly at the same time.

11. Spend quality time with your kids

The time you spend with your kids is so precious and much more limited as a single mother. Make the time that you spend with your kids count.

Rather than sitting in front of the TV, take them on fun and budget-friendly outings to the park, the playground, or a museum. Use meal times as the perfect excuse to ask them about what they are learning in school and the friends they spend time with.

When your kids ask you to play with them, look at it as a privilege and an opportunity to bond with them, rather than a distraction or waste of time. Be present when you are with them, with no work or multitasking on your mind. Your relationship with your kids will absolutely reap the benefits.

Final thoughts

Being a single mother is not an easy job. That’s why it’s important to use all the resources available to you in order to make this job a little bit easier.

Using technology, an organization system and a supportive community are just a few examples of things you should utilize to your benefit. It’s also important to shift your mindset and be more practical when it comes to things like priorities and finances.

Most of all, don’t forget about your own self care. Only when you take care of yourself can you best take care of the people you love.

Single mothers are some of the most hard-working people out there, and you deserve to have a happy and fulfilling life.

Featured photo credit: Alvaro Reyes via unsplash.com

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