Parenting is one of life's true joys, but it is also one of the hardest things you'll ever do in your time on this earth. It's an "all hands on deck" obstacle course of emotions, struggles, elation, and conflict. Often, how you respond during crisis says the most about you as a parent, though not necessarily for good or for ill. The skills and strategies you employ are a window into how you parent as a whole, and it is fascinating to examine what your parenting conflict resolution style says about you. Because we can all learn a lot from one another as parents just trying to do our best.
There has been extensive study into the ways our personalities often define our styles of conflict resolution, and much of that scholarship is applicable to parenting in much the same way. For instance, while I am unafraid of confrontation, I do not love the idea of it, and therefore look for ways to head it off at the pass, in lieu of finding myself needing to resolve conflict head-on. Researchers posit that personalities like mine tend to set and enforce strict boundaries that would preclude the need for conflict. As a parent, I am very specific and communicative with my children about expectations, and while conflict does arise, as it always will, it is usually linked to an occasion for which I have not established such boundaries and expectations.
1. You're All About The Timeout
At least with my friends, timeouts are far and away the most popular form of conflict resolution. Most of us cut our parenting teeth by watching episodes of Supernanny — before we even became parents — and the idea of timeouts seem so orderly. Indeed, marriage and family therapist William Hambleton Bishop wrote that it is a way of seeking order in a stressful circumstance for both you and the person or child with whom you find yourself in conflict. He noted that "taking a timeout can give you the time to understand how you are really feeling..."
Parents who put their kids in timeout right away are the Steady Eddies of the parenting community. They understand the need to de-escalate an argument by each party stepping back and calming down.
They seek strategies that allow them all to come to a better place of self-reflection. This tendency toward self-reflection is a boon according to Bishop, who wrote "in the process of honest contemplation, presence and/or self-reflection, we can arrive at congruent direction… we arrive at a truth as to what action must be taken to best promote dignity, balance, harmony, authenticity, and safety."
2. Goodbye iPad
I will admit, taking away electronics as punishment is 100 percent my go-to. Why? Because thus far it has been so utterly successful. While some experts have noted that older adolescents might not benefit from this form of punitive action at the same level as younger children, as of right now, it works beautifully. Although the parents in this scenario are also punishing themselves a little, because those electronics really do occupy our children.
Psychologist Dr Kelly Flanagan wrote that taking away electronics is a difficult, but rational choice for parents that might actually benefit them in the long run by allowing children to "unplug." Parents who choose this punishment are generally parents of slightly older kids who wouldn't benefit as much from a timeout, and who don't have the necessary patience to talk it out with their children. They like things to be simple and transactional. Parents like this are fans of work/reward scenarios in the rest of their parenting as well. For instance, "If you clean your room every day this week, I will give you $5 for Robux."
3. Parents Who Talk It Out & Redirect
First of all, hats off to you parents for being able to talk it out and redirect, because I am an epic failure at this maneuver.
There is an abundance of research that looks away from traditional timeouts and other forms of conflict resolution, and looks at more up-front approaches, like redirection and talking to your child to understand the impetus of the misbehavior. Parents who talk it out are also able to successfully communicate to their children why that behavior is unacceptable and in doing so, prevent much of it to begin with.
Parents who are able to communicate these boundaries and this intention with their children are the parents who are able to mentally detach from problems as they seek solutions, according to Valya Telep, Former Extension Specialist, Child Development, Virginia State University. They have trained themselves to be able to step back from their own irritation while still maintaining active engagement in the experience. These parents are the ones you see taking their children aside, managing to speak quietly and calmly to a child mid melt-down. Or they remove them from the situation entirely.
In other areas of their parenting, these are the parents with detailed chore charts and labeled toy boxes. They thrive on expectations and boundaries. They are also the parents who never leave home without a box of crayons and a coloring book, because the understand the value of the adept re-direct.
No matter how your family chooses to resolve its conflicts, there will come a time when every parent loses their sh*t, and either yells or screams, or says something they wish they hadn't. It's a fact of parenting life. So while this is all interesting to read, don't look at other parents and wish you could parent like them. Instead, accept your own style and understand that all parents mess up.