In a world where angry is the new happy, and yelling loud enough and lying long enough are the tactics used to resolve disputes, families might want to consider mediation techniques as a sane and sensible way to deal with conflict.
Mediation has long been used in the workplace and in divorce proceedings for conflict resolution. It's a method that circumvents anger and emotion in conflict situations with attention given to respect for both sides in the dispute. The emphasis is on good communication, clear language and critical thinking skills. Both sides in a dispute get a voice, resolutions are considered, and both sides agree on the solution.
Those same techniques can be applied in family disagreements. Mediation usually requires a third party but in a family setting clear communication and language skills can be applied to reduce stress and resolve disputes. Mediation's objective is to resolve conflicts fairly and equitably.
During my career in education I trained student mediators and the benefits were many both for the school and for their own personal development. It gave them an understanding of the many facets of conflict, power and control. They were able to identify potential conflicts and were required to look at both sides of a situation. They learned to be part of the solution and not a bystander.
Those same benefits apply equally as well in a family situation. It's a team approach to family life and that gives a shared ownership to the conflict resolution.
During any lengthy family time together like family road trips and holidays, mediation techniques can become a very useful tool to help ease the demands and expectations of family life. Think mediate before escalate in family conflicts.
Mediation fosters respect, and good listening and speaking skills. Patience is a necessary attribute of any mediation process. In my experience, when children see its benefits, they can model it and translate it to their own life. It is yet another social skill that can be used effectively in their future.
Time constraints in family life mean that solutions to problems are often harried and hurried rather than taking the time to use this parenting tool effectively. Give yourself a challenge of using mediation skills for one problem solving family issue at a time. It will help your child learn to identify problems and solutions themselves with your guidance.
Too often in our busy family lives we leap to solutions, offering an array of choices to find a resolution, before the child has a chance to problem solve the situation on their own. Problem solving skills are an evolving competency in a child's brain development.
As an example where mediation skills might be useful, "I'm bored', is a frequent holiday line that can be distressing for a parent. Rather than rhyming of a list of possible boredom busters, the child is given the task of looking at what is available. 'Let's both come up with possible activities" opens the discussion and gives them a shared ownership of the problem.
It is also an opportunity to be reminded that life is all about the choices we make. Are they choosing to be bored? If so, then they have to own the choice.
Any skill is built incrementally. Be aware of mediation tactics and use them when you feel up to the task of taking the time. For mediation to work language must be clear on both sides. Too often we ask our children a question and then answer it for them. Patience is required to let them formulate their own answers or solutions. Your opinion is part of the mediation but the solution should be agreeable to both sides.
Mediation skills are effective when siblings are being argumentative. This is when a parent can be a true mediator. Be firm but fair. A mediator is the calm in the sibling storm. Mediation fosters empathy and sibling rivalry is an excellent place for an empathy lesson. It is an opportunity for both siblings to acknowledge their frustration and for each one to hear their impact on the conflict and offer their side. It can help deescalate a volatile situation. Active listening is an essential life skill.
Mediation takes the judgmental aspect of conflict away. Being judgmental sets up an adversarial situation and provides an opportunity for sibling manipulation.
Successful parenting has common sense as a significant under pinning of the lofty goal of raising a child. Mediation fosters patience and tenacity.
Mediation skills build determination, perseverance, and responsibility. It demonstrates using power and control positively. Mediation is about self- control, waiting your turn, and showing a commitment to a solution.
It requires nothing more than knowledge of the skills necessary to mediate rather than direct with intimidation and threats. Over time children internalize the skills and the mediation process becomes part of family life — an effective and beneficial- go to- in solving disputes.
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