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Steps to Help Your Kids Handle Conflict

You need these tips in your parenting toolbox!

ConflictJust saying the word makes some people break out in a sweat while others want to run for the hills. Surprisingly, some people enjoy engaging in conflict, although most people prefer to avoid it at all costs. While many think that conflict is bad, it’s actually neither good nor bad; it’s what you do with it that can create either a negative or positive experience. The reality is, conflict is part of life. And your kids need to know how to handle conflict, too. The good news is, engaging conflict properly can lead to some really powerful outcomes.

Life can be stressful for sure. We often face complicated situations that require navigating differences of opinion, problem-solving and sometimes, agreeing to disagree. One of the greatest things parents can teach their children is the art of managing and/or resolving conflict at home, at school, in the community or on the job.

If you are a parent, consider how you and your kids currently handle conflict.

You’ve probably heard that it’s always best if your kids don’t witness an argument, but taking your disagreements behind closed doors all the time isn’t necessarily helpful. It’s a learning experience when young people see their parents disagree, work it through and make up. That’s the first step in helping children prepare for dealing with conflict in their own life, especially in those moments when you aren’t around.

It’s also helpful if you don’t step in every time your child disagrees with someone.

Instead, ask your child about the issue at hand so they learn to identify what they are irritated or angry about. Then ask what they think their next best step might be. This will help them learn how to think critically and brainstorm potential next steps. It may be tempting to just point things out to them, especially if you are in a hurry, but it’s far more helpful in the long run to teach them how to do this for themselves.

Ask your child about their role in the conflict.

It’s easy to assume it is totally the other person’s fault when both parties may have contributed to the situation at hand. Helping your young person understand how they may have contributed to the issue could give them some insight into their own behavior and how they might want to handle things differently in the future.

Before deciding what happens next, it is wise to address the feelings connected to the offense.

Stuffing those feelings doesn’t help, but neither is physically attacking someone or doing something else to get back at them. Teaching children how to constructively handle their emotions will serve them well for the rest of their lives. Sometimes the best lesson is experiencing how it feels to be treated a certain way. As a result, they will know how not to treat people in the future.

Finally, it’s time for your young person to decide their best next move and take action. 

They might want to rehearse a conversation with you before facing the other party. Writing out their plan might be beneficial. If you’re hoping for a constructive outcome, perhaps both parties could respectfully share their perspective of the situation. Even if nothing gets resolved at this point, they are making progress. 

Throughout this process, your child learns how to handle conflict themselves, which is a major confidence-builder. They will also learn how to slow down long enough to identify their feelings, brainstorm the possibilities when it comes to managing or resolving the conflict, and come up with a constructive way to move forward. These tools can’t be purchased at the hardware store, but they are certainly valuable ones to have in their toolbox.

Image from Unsplash.com

It was a turning point in the fictional marriage of Katie and Ben in the movie The Story of Us, starring Michele Pfeiffer and Bruce Willis. Katie tells Ben that she doesn’t want to end their marriage.

“…You always know that I’m a little quiet in the morning and compensate accordingly,” she says to him. “That’s a dance you perfect over time. And it’s hard, it’s much harder than I thought it would be, but there’s more good than bad. And you don’t just give up.”

Does Divorce Lead to Happiness?

Many couples in America today find themselves at the same turning point in their marriage. Many who choose to separate often find out that it’s not what it’s cracked up to be. Research has shown that if a person is unhappy, divorce is not necessarily the road to happiness.

A national study in 2002 of 10,000 couples asked them to rate their marriage from life in hell (1) to heaven on earth (7). Researchers interviewed the couples twice, five years apart. The study found that most people rated their marriage as happy. Eighty-one percent of the couples who rated their marriage as life in hell were still together five years later. Out of that group, the majority said they were very happy after five years.

Following this study, University of Chicago sociologist Linda Waite wanted to know what makes marriages miserable and discover how they can become happy.

“We often talk about marriage like a piece of fruit—it went bad, as if it is out of our control,” says Waite. “I was interested in determining if the couples who divorced were happier following the divorce than those who chose to stay together in spite of their unhappiness.”

Waite examined the couples who rated their marriage as “life in hell.” Of the couples who stayed married, 78 percent were happy with life five years later. Only 53 percent of those who chose to separate or divorce said they were happy.

Waite interviewed couples, asking them to tell their stories about how their bad marriage got better.

Alcoholism, infidelity, overly-critical spouses, chronic miscommunication, irrational jealousy, and emotional neglect all fit into the equation, but the four most common issues that made marriages unhappy were: bad things happening to good spouses, job reversals, the kids and illness. Examples: a spouse losing their job—creating financial strain in the marriage, the challenges of raising children—leaving no time to be together as a couple, or a spouse making a poor decision during a weak moment.

In response to the question, “How did things get better?” couples described what Waite calls the “marital endurance ethic.”

“Couples shared something like, ‘Mostly we just kept putting one foot in front of the other and things began to get better,’” Waite says. “Many of them were influenced by friends’ advice to hang in there, that they were headed in the right direction.”

A passage of time often has a positive effect on problems, according to Waite.

Just because couples are unhappy now doesn’t mean they will be unhappy forever.

Katie and Ben understood that fact. “There’s a history and histories don’t happen overnight,” Katie said.

Katie was able to see past their present moment and look at the big picture. She realized that her husband was a good friend, and good friends are hard to find.

Looking for more? Check out this episode of JulieB TV on this topic!

***If you or someone you know is in an abusive relationship, contact the National Hotline for Domestic Abuse. At this link, you can access a private chat with someone who can help you 24/7. If you fear someone is monitoring your computer or device, call the hotline 24/7 at: 1−800−799−7233. For a clear understanding of what defines an abusive relationship, click here.***

Job exits can ruin relationships if you’re not careful. Sara* was sick and tired of the way she was being treated at work, so she decided it was time to leave. She totally planned to let her boss know how she felt about things on her way out. 

There was no way to know that three years later she would be interviewing for another job – and her interviewer would be the very person she unloaded on when she left her former workplace.

“This is not unusual,” says Pamper Garner Crangle, President of Pamper Garner and Associates, a consulting firm that helps companies manage and measure “people problems.”

“People get emotional and feel the need to vent before they leave a job. They often don’t care how they come across because they are leaving. But, I try to remind them that how they express their frustration is very important in the world of business. I tell people that your reputation often precedes you. If you handle things poorly at one company, chances are good that it will get around to other companies in the area. Like Sara, you never know when you will have to interview with someone you threw a tantrum in front of years ago.”

Studies indicate that lack of loyalty is one reason people feel justified in leaving a company badly.

“Years ago most people were very loyal to their place of employment,” Crangle says. “Today, many young people have seen their parents work in a loyal fashion for many years, sacrificing time for their marriage and family relationships, only to be downsized. So they have decided they don’t want to put in extra hours or put their personal ownership in the workplace.”

Even if you don’t feel a sense of loyalty to your company, there are good reasons not to leave on a sour note. Two of those reasons include future references and job possibilities.

“I think sometimes people forget the importance of relationships,” Crangle shares. “In a day and age where broken relationships are all around us, people tend to think of leaving a job like trading in a used car for a new one or getting a new cell phone.”

Regardless of whether you feel loyal to a company or not, attitude and presentation can make or break a conversation. Believe it or not, saying goodbye respectfully and finishing well can impact your long-term career.

You can have a good job exit and maintain relationships by following these tips:

  • Give a proper notice. Two weeks is generally acceptable, but in some cases more time can ensure a good transition. Offering to work out a longer notice gives the company options and allows you to leave on a good note.
  • Keep your comments positive. You may be unhappy and ready to tell your boss some ways to improve the workplace, but should you? Your best bet is to keep your comments positive – or at least balanced. You never know what the future holds.
  • Stay focused. When you know you are leaving, it is easy to let things go. Staying focused and completing any unfinished business is powerful when you are looking for references in the future.
  • Do a good job training your replacement. Help and support your replacement as much as possible. Even if they want the scoop about the workplace, keep your comments positive and respectful. If they ask why you are leaving, give an appropriate answer. Perhaps you could say it was time for a change or you need to experience a different environment. Or maybe you could say that your priorities have changed. You don’t have to go into detail.

There are many entrances and exits in life, both personally and professionally. Your reputation hinges on the first impression and the last impression you leave. It is sometimes tempting to sever ties with others, but we live in a small world. Although it takes more effort, it will benefit you to maintain a good relationship with those for whom you worked. You never know when you will run into those people again.

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*Not her real name

Fishing has taught me a lot about marriage. One of the most frustrating things I experience on a fishing trip is when something malfunctions with my fishing reel, and the line becomes a horrible mess of tangles and knots. Some folks call this a “bird’s nest.” The thin fishing line can bunch up in a giant mound of filament protruding from the reel.

It’s a “reel” pain.

There’s really only one way to deal with this situation: sit down on the side of the riverbank and begin the slow, tedious process of untangling the fishing line.

Yes, it’s daunting. And it’s the last thing you want to do.

It requires an enormous amount of patience and care. And the one rule to remember is that no matter how frustrated you get, you don’t want to start recklessly pulling on the line from the nest, cinching the knots even tighter, making the problem worse.

You’ve got to enter the mess and start carefully unweaving the nest until the tangle is clear and you can finally, and happily, resume catching fish.

I’ve found that tangles in marriage work in the same way. Disagreements and misunderstandings happen. It’s important to hit the pause button, sit down with your spouse, and slowly begin untangling the nest.

Yes, it’s daunting, and it may not be the most pleasant process.

And just like a bird’s nest, it requires an enormous amount of care and patience. BUT the last thing you want is to have tempers flare, say thoughtless words, and make the problem worse. This will cinch your marital tangle even tighter.

Instead, enter the mess together with a spirit of calmness and anticipate a joint solution. Just like in fishing, you’ll find in your marriage that when the tangle starts to unweave, you and your spouse have grown closer in the process.

 

***If you or someone you know is in an abusive relationship, contact the National Hotline for Domestic Abuse. At this link, you can access a private chat with someone who can help you 24/7. If you fear your computer or device is being monitored, call the hotline 24/7 at: 1−800−799−7233. For a clear understanding of what defines an abusive relationship, click here.***

I cannot tell you how many times something I did or said bothered my wife, and that stayed on her mind all day long. Over and over it plays in her mind…

Why did he say that? What was he thinking? He made me feel like this… What he did bothered me because… He must’ve meant something different… How does this affect our children? and on and on.

At the end of the day, I get home from work having no idea what she’s been internally processing all day and then she asks, “Can we talk?”

Very early in the conversation I realize that: a) I had no idea that she was bothered by something I did or said and b) she’s obviously been thinking about this all day. So, I do what any unsuspecting spouse would do. I say, “Can we talk about this later?”

There’s a whole lot behind this question that I believe some spouses, usually ladies, do not understand. Research suggests that ladies naturally process their feelings, thoughts and emotions out loud and on the fly. And that’s a good thing. That’s why when I ask my wife, “Can we talk?” she generally embraces it because it means we are about to connect. She doesn’t mind chatting with me about feelings, even if she doesn’t initially know the direction the conversation is headed.

Research also suggests that men do not do as well processing thoughts, feelings and emotions out loud in the midst of the conversation, especially without being forewarned. We need space and time to understand our own place in any given issue. That’s why my “Can we talk about this later?” question was meant to be interpreted as, “I need some time to mentally revisit what caused the issue, think through why I may have done or said it, and gather my thoughts so that we can have a conversation that is truly reflective of the type of relationship we desire to have.”

Ladies, I know it’s hard, but give him a little space to process before you talk. Then, choose a time the two of you agree on (within 24 hours, but the quicker the better), and revisit the conversation so that no issue becomes bigger than your relationship.

 ***If you or someone you know is in an abusive relationship, contact the National Hotline for Domestic Abuse. At this link, you can access a private chat with someone who can help you 24/7. If you fear someone is monitoring your computer or device, call the hotline 24/7 at 1−800−799−7233. For a clear understanding of what defines an abusive relationship, click here.***

“You don’t really listen to me and my opinion doesn’t really matter. I mean, you’re just gonna do what you want to do anyway,” my wife would say, never looking me in the eye. Of course, every time she said it, I would try to make an adjustment and correct what I thought was the issue. Then one night, the tension overwhelmed us. We sat down and had a serious talk, heart-to-heart. We needed something that would change our marriage.

I’m not gonna lie, this conversation was hard, really hard. But, it made me realize that I had absolutely no clue what the real problem was.

In short, I discovered that my wife did not feel valued by me. She didn’t feel as though I valued her perspective, her intelligence or her input. She didn’t feel like I needed her.

This really bothered me, and I felt like her feelings came completely out of the blue. They didn’t reflect how I really felt about her at all.

I decided to ask other guys if their wives ever said things like that to them. The answer was “YES” time and time again.

I even asked some wives from our circle of friends, “Do you feel valued and needed by your husband?” The response was “NO” almost every single time.

So, I decided to ask my own wife a question that I never expected would have changed our marriage,

“What makes you feel valued and needed?”

She told me right away, and I didn’t have to guess, offer my own solutions or inaccurately try to value her in the same way I want to be valued.

Now, the challenge isn’t to understand my wife, but to show her how much I value her in the way that she needs.

Last night, I heard her tell one of her girlfriends on the phone about how great our marriage has been lately. So, I’d say it’s working.

 

***If you or someone you know is in an abusive relationship, contact the National Hotline for Domestic Abuse. At this link, you can access a private chat with someone who can help you 24/7. If you fear your computer or device is being monitored, call the hotline 24/7 at: 1−800−799−7233. For a clear understanding of what defines an abusive relationship, click here.***

Dating. Is. Hard. There’s no way around it. On the bright side, you meet a variety of people. You learn more about yourself and have some good (and often laughable) awkward stories. So, when you find yourself thinking about forever with that very special someone, it may be tempting to trudge forward with emotions and skip the inner-reflective monologue. But, there is one question every dating person should ask themselves: “Do I really want to marry this person, or do I just want to be married?”

Before you start psychoanalyzing every nook and cranny of your current relationship, be aware that it will take time to answer this question. Let’s talk it through a bit.

The desire to marry often comes from an overarching desire for companionship. We all know life can be pretty heavy due to bills, stress, family issues, health concerns, career disappointments, etc. There are some nights that bar-hopping, movie-binging, or venting to a listening ear just doesn’t sweeten the bitterness of life. Marriage can look like a really good and long-term way to have a sturdy hand to hold from day-to-day. And even though you may not see eye-to-eye on your faith, finances, priorities, or the hopes and dreams you have for your future family, marriage may appear better than the alternative… being alone FOREVER.

The desire to marry can create a monster. This monster will give you blinders. It will allow you to look past the red flags and all you thought you would never settle for.

This post shouldn’t negate marriage. I think marriage is a wonderful thing. It’s supposed to be a sense of support, security and unconditional love. But a successful marriage requires a lot of work on the front end. You need patience and discernment so that you can find a person who inspires you, cares for you and truly helps you be even more like yourself.

When you can look at your relationship and see how it benefits both people, you’re probably on the right track. And, maybe you really do want to marry this person.

Image from Unsplash.com

Build an Unbreakable Marriage Right from the Start! 

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Preparing for Marriage is an online course that will guide you and your bae on a journey to build a solid foundation for your marriage! From communication to intimacy, conflict to in-laws, we unpack 8 fun and fast-paced lessons in short videos that will provide you with all the essential tools to create a thriving marriage.

Plus you’ll have access to healthy relationship experts, Reggie & Lauren, by email every step of the way to answer any questions or just give you a little encouragement!


*Must live in a qualifying state where a discount is offered on your marriage license for completing premarital education or counseling.

For better, for worse. For richer, for poorer. In sickness and in health. Starry-eyed in love, couples stand before friends and family and recite these vows with total commitment to each other. Then they come home from the honeymoon and reality hits. Is it possible to keep the “honey” in honeymoon?

“Many people believe that if they have found their soulmate and are deeply in love, they won’t have disagreements or bad things happen in their marriage. If they do, they think something must be wrong with their relationship,” says Diane Sollee, founder of the Coalition for Marriage, Family and Couples Education.

“I believe one of the biggest disservices we do to newlywed couples is not giving them expectations about how things are going to be when two lives come crashing together. They get married, go on a honeymoon and then come home thinking things are going to be great, only to find that there are these little things that keep coming up that are wreaking havoc in their relationship.”

For example, one newlywed couple lived close to the husband’s family and saw them all the time. Since they lived close to his parents, the wife thought they should go visit her family for Christmas and Thanksgiving. He thought that was totally unfair. She thought it was so fair it made her extremely angry and upset. He didn’t see the logic between where you live and splitting up the holidays. This was an issue in their first three years of marriage.

Studies indicate that every happily married couple usually has approximately 10 irreconcilable differences.

“Learning how to live with your spouse is a constant adventure that requires advance planning,” Sollee says. “I think the first years should be called the ‘clash of civilizations stage’ instead of the honeymoon. This stage is when two people actually get to set up a new civilization determining how they are going to do everything from eat, sleep, work, raise children, deal with in-laws, make love, keep house, pay bills, etc. Couples who believe that because you love each other you will simply agree about how all of this should work are in for great disappointment. Instead of seeing these differences as part of the marriage adventure, this is the very thing that sends what could be a great marriage over time into a tailspin.”

It might come as a surprise to know that noted marriage researcher, Dr. John Gottman, found that happily-married couples disagree the same amount as couples who divorce. Studies show that all couples fight about money, sex, kids, others and time. Couples who understand that these disagreements are normal and learn to manage those areas do better.

“Finding these areas of disagreement is part of the adventure. It shouldn’t scare couples if they prepare for the journey,” Sollee suggests. “Entering into marriage without preparation would be like planning to climb Mount Everest and only hoping you have what it takes. When people first started climbing that mountain, many people did not make it because they did not know what to expect. Now the success rate is much better because people know how to prepare and often do so for years before they actually climb the mountain. The same is true with marriage. We know the tools couples need to be successful.”

If you’re marrying soon or are a newlywed, think of it as if you were preparing to climb Mount Everest.

It’s a great adventure with potential danger at every turn. You want to be as knowledgeable as possible about what to expect. That way, even the simple things don’t pose a threat to your relationship. There are ways you can know what to expect from marriage—including how to navigate those annoying disagreements that keep rising to the surface. And knowing what to expect can help you keep the “honey” long after the honeymoon is over.

For instance, you can take a premarital or marriage education class where you can practice handling the hard stuff.

“You can do almost anything in life if you know what to expect,” Sollee shares. “If you don’t know what to expect, you can fall in a crevasse and blame it on all the wrong things—your spouse, your mother-in-law, etc.”

 ***If you or someone you know is in an abusive relationship, contact the National Hotline for Domestic Abuse. At this link, you can access a private chat with someone who can help you 24/7. If you fear your computer or device is being monitored, call the hotline 24/7 at: 1−800−799−7233. For a clear understanding of what defines an abusive relationship, click here.***