Flipping the perspective on dealing with conflict

Tanya Kemp
What are my Options?

Consider this example for a moment: Your 5-year-old, Amy, is playing quietly, while eating from a can of Pringles (we’re all in crisis here and what is so bad about a can of Pringles! ☺ ). Enter your 7-year-old, James. He notices the Pringles and tries to grab them for himself.  They start to yell and grab at each other and soon they are embroiled in an amateur fistfight with James now holding on to the can of Pringles. You walk in and happen to know that Amy was eating the Pringles first. 

Your reaction (or a variation thereof): you yell over both of them for James to give the Pringles back. He refuses, explaining profusely….then Amy starts crying and storms towards James again. You jump in between them, and in your effort to GRAB the Pringles from James’ hands, the can drops and the Pringles spill all over the living room floor. Amy cries even louder and you start picking up what you can save and hand them over to her, in an attempt to make the crying stop. All the while you are (yelling) explaining to James that we do not grab food from each other, that spilling everything on the floor is exactly what happens when we do, that this is not being kind or considerate and that he is older and should know better. You wonder (out loud) why everything always has to be such a nightmare with him and why there can’t just be an hour of peace in this house! You’re pretty sure James was saying something during all of this, as he didn’t stop talking, but it was all really just ‘noise’. Amy is still crying but eating Pringles nonetheless, watching James as you scold him. You explain (perhaps still a bit shrilly), that he is to STAY AWAY from Amy and if he doesn’t, there will be trouble. He snarls at Amy and then you order James to go to his room until he has had time to think about what he has done. 

We will work with this example a bit more and it may or may not be an exaggeration of what is happening in your home at the moment, but stay with me here. 

For now, consider this: Our children are watching us. We are modelling behaviour all the time. In the above example…what was modelled to both the children? Yelling, barking orders, grabbing, appeasing and so on. 

How would YOU feel if you got into an argument with your spouse and they started grabbing things from you, yelled at you and told you to beat it? How would you feel if your child grabbed things out of your hand, yelled at you and told you to get out of his sight?

Interesting switch in perspective. If it’s not okay for it to be done to you, then it is not okay for it to be done to your children.


Self-reflection: What are your current strategies teaching your children? How productive is it? How is it in line, or NOT in line with the bigger goal of teaching our children how to resolve conflict, negotiate, listen to other’s perspectives and to recognise their own self-regulation needs?

It’s a very tall order to achieve all of that – but remember that we only need to do ‘enough’ and that means we only need to get it right, ‘sometimes’ ☺. The more you do it, the more of a response you will get from your kids – the better you will feel, and the easier it will become to implement. 


Family Cuddle time: Call out ‘Family Cuddle Time!!’ and have everyone in the family run to the master bedroom and PILE into the bed. There is a bit of proprioception involved here and then the giggles may subside and sighs and deep breaths may take their place. It’s a lower energy version of rough and tumble in some ways and gives a few precious minutes of connection without much thought or planning. 


Place a hand gently on your arm, your heart, or cheek. (just like you may do for your kids)

Take a moment to just feel the sensations and the emotions that arise.