Or: How to Follow the Ally Road to Family Collaboration
There are numerous forks in the road while you are having a conflict with your child. At each fork, you make decisions about how you will think and act. You can choose the adversarial road that escalates the conflict, or the ally road that de-escalates the conflict. The thoughts and feelings you have at that fork, decides which way you will turn.
Conflicts repeat themselves. To get a better result, it is essential to carefully analyze the altercation when you are calm and decide on what you will think and do differently the next time. This way, when the conflict emerges again, you will have a better chance of responding as an ally, so you build cooperation rather than increase the conflict.
Interactions with children are so complicated.
Your expectations, the shoulds, your energy level, and your past hurts can all come into play when a conflict arises. Understand that this will happen and have a written plan on how to respond logically rather than emotionally.
Let’s take a common conflict where you have asked your child to put away his toys and he refuses.
Your goal is to create cooperation and your child isn’t complying. Below are common adversarial beliefs and common ally beliefs. Your child’s resistance is the first fork in the road where your responding thoughts and actions will lead you onto the adversarial road or the ally road.
Please note that even if you have adversarial beliefs, you can decide to not act on them. You can realize that these adversarial beliefs will lead you down the road away from creating collaboration in your family.
See which thoughts and beliefs you usually have when your child refuses your request.
Common Adversarial Beliefs and Thoughts
1. My child should do what she is told.
2. I do so much for him and this is how he treats me.
3. I need to give my child a punishment, so she learns she can’t act this way.
If you act based on these adversarial thoughts, you will build a wall between the two of you. This wall will make it very difficult to come to a cooperative solution. Your perception that your child is wrong, and you are right will lead to a power struggle where everyone feels bad. Even if you have adversarial thoughts, when you acknowledge this tendency ahead of time, you can control your mind, push aside these thoughts, and choose ally thoughts instead.
Below are examples of ally thoughts that correspond to the adversarial thoughts above.
As you read the list, be aware of any tendency you may have to give excuses to hold on to the adversarial thoughts such as, “my child should do what they are told. I’m the parent,” etc. The goal is to build a cooperative family. This doesn’t mean you give up power. This means that you give appropriate power to your child and that you use soft power, so everyone feels respected and valued.
Suggested Ally Thoughts and Beliefs
1. Since my child is resisting, I need to find a better way to work together.
2. I need to set better expectations and boundaries about how much I do for the family, so I don’t feel taken advantage of.
3. Punishment will make the situation worse. I can use empathy statements to help her release her resistance, so she can move forward and cooperate.
If you hold on to adversarial thoughts and act on them, here are typical punishment strategies that you might use. These lead to less connection and more conflict now and in the future.
Common Adversarial Actions
1. Yelling and shaming in hopes that when your child feels bad, he won’t do it again.
2. Taking something they value away.
3. Giving rewards and bribes.
Suggested Ally Actions
1. In the moment, acknowledge their resistance with empathy such as, “It looks like you don’t want to pick up your toys, now.”
2. After listening to their resistance, move toward problem solving, “Well, they are on the floor and they might get stepped on and broken or hurt your foot. I’m wondering how to protect your toys?”
3. After, recognize that a better chore system needs to be created. Have a problem-solving session later to discuss each person’s responsibilities. Let go of the power struggle in the moment.
As you encounter a fork in the road, think to yourself, what should I be thinking and doing that will lead to greater cooperation? It’s not about your ego or power. Rather, think of how you can build in each moment more and more family interactions of cooperation, cohesion, and connection.
©2018 Cynthia Klein, Bridges 2 Understanding, has been a Certified Parenting Educator since 1994. She works with parents and organizations who want more cooperation, mutual respect and understanding between adults and children. Cynthia presents her expertise through speaking, private parenting coaching sessions, and her book, Ally Parenting: A Non-Adversarial Approach to Transform Conflict Into Cooperation. She works with parents of 5 – 25 year-old children.
To learn how Cynthia can help you solve your specific challenges, contact Cynthia at www.bridges2understanding.com, [email protected], or 650. 679.8138 to have a complementary 45-minute discovery session. Why keep suffering? It’s time to change!