How to deal with family feuds

Family arguments can be our most intense, emotive exchanges. We sought advice from parenting expert ODETTE UMALI from Gordon Parenting on how best to handle family conflicts.

#1 Sibling Conflict

Do you feel like your children are in a constant state of conflict? Studies show this is a normal part of a child’s development – they’re starting to assert themselves and their independence and test their powers.

Sometimes, sibling fights arise from jealousy and competition for attention from parents. Odette recommends that one-to-one time may help. She also suggests the following strategies:

Gordon Parenting

Family meetings:

Hold a compulsory family meeting (during a no-problem time) and agree on ground rules for sibling fights. Some suggestions: no physical violence, no name-calling, everyone should feel safe.

Active listening:

Try mediating by repeating the feelings and facts back to each of the children as they speak. Keep going until their emotions stabilise.

Get to the source:

Analyse the source of frequently occurring conflict and try to understand the triggers. For example, if a toy or device is the culprit, agree on a written schedule for using the device that everyone can see.

#2 Political Conflict

Our current political climate means politically themed discussions between teens and older parents are common. In Odette’s experience, families who deal with this type of conflict successfully put the importance of their relationship in the centre of the debate.

“In our Parent Effectiveness Classes (PET) courses, we learn that a collision of values is the conflict that takes longest to process and manage,” says Odette. “How we discuss, resolve or even live with the differences is key to a long-lasting and meaningful relationships.”

Odette also has some advice for when political discussions become too personal and the conflict starts to inflict damage on the relationship. “If you feel the differences are just too strong and both sides will not be convinced to change their minds, but both sides still want the relationship to work, it might be useful to accept the differences and avoid the discussion. Focus on other matters that are important and common to both of you – for example, your next holiday destination or visiting relatives!”

Gordon Parenting hosts Parent Effectiveness Classes (PET) courses in Hong Kong.

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