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4 effective ways to handle conflict (and prepare kids for life)

The truth may be difficult to say and to hear, but ultimately it does set you free.

4 effective ways to handle conflict (and prepare kids for life)

If you know what needs to be said and done, but it is neither said nor done you are in the ‘conflict avoidance’ zone.


Nobody wants to fight with their kids or spouse.  A little peace and quiet seems like a good thing, a desirable state of affairs.  Who doesn’t want a hassle-free morning, an argument-free vacation, a quiet dinner, or a compliant child?

We all do—however, avoiding our inner wisdom and going for harmony often leads to bigger conflicts and problems later on.  Gratification in the short term can derail our long-term vision and results.

Let’s get to the heart of the matter, so we can change it.

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This phenomenon of avoiding conflict is definitely in my top five list of what not to do.  I see it as a volunteer, as a coach, in the business world, and in my own life.

I am no stranger to conflict avoidance.  As a child, I got the message not to share my (differing) opinions and my feelings.  Of course, I took this message into adulthood, marriage and parenting.  It did not serve me well, and it takes a conscious effort to overcome it, and speak my mind in ways that can be heard.

We are master problem-solvers.  Like all good problem-solvers, though, we must first identify obstacles that hold us back. Why do more people than not avoid conflict?  Why do you do what has the potential to backfire on you, your children and your relationships?

As always, fear is the biggest motivator.  More specifically, it’s fear of speaking the truth as you see it.

What are the outcomes you’re trying to avoid? Being rejected. Feeling unloved or unwanted. Making a mistake or being wrong. Not being perfect. Not getting your way. Others being angry at you. Your children saying they hate you and giving you the silent treatment. Jeopardizing a friendship. Having to act on that truth and feeling unable to follow through. That’s just a sampling.

Hopefully, it will get you thinking about why you spend time in the ‘conflict avoidance zone.’  Once you figure it out, here are some tips for stepping out and living in a more honest way.

1. Stop

You know when you’re going there.  You can feel it in your breathing or in the flutter or tightness that settles somewhere in your body.  When you become aware of it, stop what you’re doing, stop what you’re saying. Breathe.

2. Listen to yourself

To the inner voice of wisdom that is bubbling up to be heard.

3.  Understand the real message

It’s the voice of truth, not of avoidance and conciliation.  The truth may be difficult to say and to hear, but ultimately it does set you free.  It will clear the way for understanding, connection and the next right step.

4.  Share your truth

If you continue to run from it, it will smother you and your relationships.  The key is in how you express it.  There are ways to say what you mean with love and integrity, and without judgment and anger.

Then, reflect on the situation.

  • What is an issue that you shy away from discussing, and what is the fear?
  • How does avoiding this issue affect you and your family later on?
  • What are your children learning about how to resolve differences when you react this way?
  • Consider discussing the issue of ‘conflict avoidance’ with family members.
  • Script out what you’d like to say so you can remain calm and stay on topic.

We come back, as always, to how this impacts you as a parent and your relationship with your child. Self-aware, effective parents know when they've been triggered. They recognize the importance of acknowledging their fears and working through them so they can better support their children.

When you avoid a difficult conversation, the issue doesn't fade away, it just goes into hiding. Going for peace and harmony in your family may feel better in the moment, but the problem will likely get bigger, less manageable and erupt. You end up getting more of the problematic behaviors you were trying to avoid!

Consider what you are teaching your child when you react this way and avoid those hard conversations: harmony is more important than the truth, it's okay to avoid conflict rather than face it head on and move on, this is what relationships look and sound like.

You are their most important teacher and they are always watching what you do (much more than listening to what you say). They will take this image into their intimate, social and business relationships and it will not serve them well.

Speaking the truth is challenging, but it is doable. When you falter, remember your vision for your children and how you want them to show up in the world. This can help you find that bit of courage to confront the truth and defuse the conflict.

Originally posted on Fern Weiss.

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