Parents can often feel that when communication breaks down, either with their child or partner, the problem lies mainly with the other person. But to get beyond this stress and frustration, we need to acknowledge that we have a responsibility in this conflict and it’s not ‘all the other person’. We bring emotions, perceptions and ideas which then can create different outcomes in the other person.
Perhaps this resonates with you: you’re having difficulties with you child and your partner, or relative or friend, gets involved and the child does exactly what you were asking them to do. Only to hear them say, ‘Well, he’s fine with me’.
It isn’t the instructions are any different and the outcome hasn’t changed particularly, but the relationship that you have with your child in this example is different from your partner’s. To then say the child needs to do something different or change their attitude is certainly part of the solution but what I think is also worth bearing in mind, is that we need to reflect on our own attitude, on our own behaviour. What have we contributed to it? What have we done to bring about this reaction? Maybe more importantly, how else could we approach this conversation? What else could we do differently?
This can be as simple as changing how you stand. You could kneel down rather than stand up. Or you ask in a funny voice rather than your normal voice. Changing how you approach a situation will give you a different response in some form.
Maybe change the language, perhaps if you’ve been using words like can’t or don’t or won’t or shan’ts, find a positive form of that same request.
Say it with a different tone, a different posture. Or at a different time when a child is doing something else. Or write it down. Find alternative ways that you can behave and I feel that you’ll have a different response in your child and ideally one that will be more useful for you. One that doesn’t rely on someone else – a friend, a partner, a relative – to achieve your outcome.
It’s about saying to ourselves, “OK – there is a problem here, it’s not all one sided. Is something I need to change? Something I need to adapt about myself? What could that be?” and see what you come up with.
So when you are approaching a conflict like this, consider what you might do differently.
Ben Jackson coaches for personal development, leadership and transition for career parents. Juggling work, family and life in the Chilterns, he’s currently studying consecutively for a diploma in counselling and a diploma in teaching.