How to Quell Household Disputes and Restore Domestic Tranquility

What is the toughest part of parenting?  Most parents would say the everyday household conflicts and relationship drama inherent in family life.  Like it or not, moms are usually the home “sheriffs” and the ones charged with “putting out the fires.”

   Momagers® (mom and manager) must be great problem solvers who can quell the almost daily sibling or spousal flare-ups.  Effective mothering, put simply, requires fine-tuned conflict management skills.

   As a parent of three, I have dealt with an enormous range of emotions — my children’s and mine simultaneously. As a leadership development trainer and Momager®, I got plenty of practice applying conflict management techniques.  I’ve learned how to problem-solve and negotiate like the best. You can, too. 

Why does conflict exist?
   Conflicts arise out of differences between people, goals, values, and ways of doing things.  It can occur for a zillion reasons — anything from, “Mom, he looked at me!” to “She took my gum” can erupt into a full-scale drama if not dealt with appropriately. Because life happens so fast, we have to invest time and energy exploring different problem-solving techniques so we’re ready for anything. Doing this right helps all our family members feel valued and appreciated.  
   While teaching a conflict management course, one of the most eye-opening moments for me comes when people realize they have control over how they deal with conflict.  People can understand one another in a deeper way.  Healing happens. Relationships reunite.  If conflict is handled poorly, crippling effects occur.  People feel discouraged or demoralized.  One of life’s greatest pains is when we are misunderstood within our family – by the people who love us the most. 

   As a mom, you have many superpowers when dealing with conflicts and solving problems, but be sure to use your powers judiciously. What you do today will affect generations to come. Your kids will bring their problem solving abilities into their families.  A cycle of healing or pain will continue depending on how you handle this delicate subject.  

The 5 Step Process to Quell Family Conflicts
   This process contains the magic of solving problems while retaining everyone’s self-worth.  It can be used at home or at work.   

Step One: What is the problem and whose problem is it?  
   The first step in resolving a problem or conflict is to define it.  In one sentence identify what the problem really is and who should ‘own’ it. Have each of the kids clearly explain the problem from their viewpoint. Everyone has to be clear about what the problem is.
• Sample problem: The kitchen is messy after dinner. Who’s responsible?  The three kids.

Step Two: Discuss impacts.  
   How does this conflict make people feel?  As a parent you want to ask questions like, “Who was affected by this incident?” and “How do you think your behavior makes me feel?” This is vitally important because it develops accountability for our actions and empathy for other people’s feelings and opinions.    
• Impact of sample problem: I feel frustrated and taken advantage of.  I don’t like being the only one doing the dishes.

Step Three: What is causing the problem?
   Much like an investigation team finds out what caused a fire, you must determine what caused the issue you want to solve.  Dig deep for the true root cause(s). Many times the solution of the problem can be found in the cause.  
• Causes:  Kids don’t pick up their plates. There’s no clear direction. Parents are too exhausted to follow up with kids to do their job.

Step Four: What are possible solutions?
   It’s time to solve the problem. Instead of looking at constraints and rules, open your mind to creative options. Sit around the dinner table or have a family meeting to brainstorm all the options.  Assign a note-keeper to jot down all the ideas.   
• Possible solutions:  Get the dog to lick the plates.  Take turns where one family member does all the cleaning up after dinner. Make a schedule and have one person clean up and another person do the dishes.

Step Five: Select the best solution and make a plan to implement it
   Now you can decide on the best solution and have everyone commit to being involved in implementing it.  
• Best solution: Make a chart so everyone takes turns and has the ‘privilege’ of serving the family.
   After you use this problem solving technique a few times you’re going to see serious changes.  Implementing this system takes some extra time upfront but the payoff is worth it.  People will stop yelling, because they know they are going to be heard.  They will think about how their actions affect others.  You won’t hear the sighs and slamming doors, or see the rolled eyes – at least not as much.  

  Here’s something every Superhero Momager® can recite over and over again: “If you’re part of the problem, you’re part of the solution.”     

What does a peaceful environment look like? 
   You will see people expressing their honest thoughts and feelings. People will listen respectfully.  You will explore new and creative ideas together.  You will see kids who can express themselves clearly.  You will see more cooperation, responsible behavior, and greater trust.  A common bond will connect your family when you work through difficult situations with respect and dignity. You’ll even find your kids are the ones others come to with their problems.   Most of all, you will see and feel peace in action. 
   If parents solve all the problems themselves, the child only behaves as a result of his or her parents’ presence. Parents can provide the training so kids can do it themselves. Your child will learn independence and have more confidence, as he knows he can solve his own problems.

   You can promote peace in your home. Don’t forget that you’re a superhero to your family.  As my son Steven says, “Mom, you set the ‘therMOMeter’ in the home.”

Christine Martinello is the author of The Momager® Guide: Empowering Moms to Leave a Loving Legacy. She is founder of the Momager® Movement, Camp Her Way, a facilitator of edutainment’ programs, president of Training Solutions International, and a motivational speaker. She has been married for 15 years and is Momager to three children, ages 13, 11 and 10.