I have adopted a new conflict resolution process in my household. Whenever there is conflict, and let's be honest here it's usually between the small ones, each person must come to the table and tell his side of the story. While one is talking, the other must listen and not interrupt. Then the talker becomes the listener and the listener becomes the talker. Once each person has told his side of the story, the mediator (usually me) asks how can we solve this problem? I then turn to each and ask what do they need from the other in order to resolve this conflict. Generally, they each say they need an apology. When they've told me what they need, I tell them they have their solution and it's up to them to carry it out. Once they've carried it out, I tell them this conflict is now resolved and it's time to move on and forget about it.
During this morning's conflict, Jack interrupted Dean while he was telling his side of the story and I reprimanded Jack and reminded him that he has to listen to Dean's point of view. Jack stomped away from the table and threw himself face down on the couch. I went into the living room and told him that this is no way to resolve a conflict. The only way to resolve a conflict is to sit down with the other person and talk it out. You can't solve problems by running away or burying your face in the pillows. You have to come back to the table so we can keep talking this out and so you can have a say in what the solution will be. He sat up and calmly walked back to the table. Dean finished telling his side of the story and I asked him what he needed. He said he needed an apology from Jack. I asked Jack what he needed and he said he needed an apology from Dean. They each said they were sorry and then looked at me. I congratulated them on talking it out and successfully solving their problem. They smiled and I told them that we move on from here, this is now over. And we went on about our morning, peacefully.
Will this work every time? Probably not. I'm sure there will be times when one or the other won't give in, won't give what the other needs. And I guess we'll have to keep talking when that happens. There will be times when a compromise is in order and it may take extra time to figure out what that compromise will be. Maybe there will be times when we won't be able to resolve the conflict right away and we'll have to pick up the discussion at a later date. Maybe they'll learn how to resolve the small disputes on their own and I'll only have to step in on the big ones. I don't know.
I do know that they will have to face conflict often in their lives and I hope that this is just one small step towards equipping them with the tools that they'll need to be able to manage conflict without resorting to name calling, threats, physical violence and bullying. Because if that's your only reaction to conflict, no one is interested in coaxing you to the table.