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A Parent’s Guide to…. conflict

Sometimes, things can get a little heated at home, especially when we are trying to make changes.

It’s totally normal and not always a bad thing. It can be an opportunity to pay attention and make the necessary changes to support living a healthier and happier life together. 

This guide is here to help explain our approach to dealing with conflict. We don’t always have to act the same way in every scenario. In fact, doing this may prevent the desired outcome. You might not get it right first time and that’s okay, that’s how we learn and grow. 

As you read through the conflict styles below, have a think about when you might default to these styles. You will probably do all of these at different times and there are advantages and disadvantages to both. Is there one that you default to more often?   

As we go through the different conflict styles, let’s use the following scenario as an example, and take a look at how each conflict style might deal with it: 

SCENARIO: You’ve asked your child to come off the computer for dinner but they don’t want to stop playing games with their friends. 

The Avoider

This conflict style completely avoids the conflict and doesn’t engage with the issue. 

  • Benefits: avoids arguments. Sometimes if you are tired, or you know this is not the right time to approach the subject, avoiding the conflict can be beneficial.  
  • Downsides: doesn’t resolve the issue and behaviour never changes, you may also feel resentful.  

How the avoider would deal with our computer game scenario: 

If your child doesn’t come off the computer when you’ve asked them to, you don’t say anything. You just let them come down when they want to, this avoids any conflict. 

The Accommodator

You may start to have the discussion, but if there is resistance, then you find it’s probably easier if you do the task yourself.  

  • Benefits: quicker, avoids the stress, easier to do it yourself, it’s get done to the standard that you are happy with.  
  • Downsides: you may feel resentful or frustrated, it will always cost you something- time/money/stress.  

Similarly to The Avoider, sometimes it is not the right time to broach the subject so accommodating might come in handy. However, it is important not to use this technique too often. People may come to expect you to ask them to do something and know that you yourself will ultimately end up doing what you’ve asked them to do.  

How the accommodator would deal with our computer game scenario:  

You ask your child to come down several times but they don’t listen and stay on the computer. You end up taking their dinner up to them. 

The Authoritarian

This conflict style takes charge and sets the rules without exception. 

  • Benefits: May be useful when children are younger and can move to different styles as the child gets older and has more autonomy, can be used as a consequence for bad behaviours and clarity of boundaries. 
  • Downsides: Rigid and inflexible, if they don’t own the rules/they haven’t bought into the rules they are unlikely to do the behaviour when you are not there  

How The Authoritarian would deal with our computer game scenario: 

 You ask your child to come down, when they don’t want to, you turn the Wi-Fi off so they are forced to stop playing their games.  

The Compromiser

this conflict style is all about negotiation, to meet in a place that you are both mostly happy with. All parties will have to give a little and will gain a little.  

  • Benefits: builds trust, both parties gain something they wanted  
  • Downsides: may leave people wanting more, you are probably asking them to do something that benefits them/is totally reasonable therefore by not doing it both of you lose a little  


How The Compromiser would deal with our computer game scenario: 

When they don’t want to come off the computer, you both agree to 10 more minutes playing and then they will come down for dinner.  

Joint Problem Solving

Joint Problem Solving (JPS) is the technique of working together, to come to a solution that you are both happy with. It may sound similar to compromise; however, it is important with JPS that you both genuinely feel happy with the solution you have come up with. It’s key to start by asking each other’s point of view and why you feel a certain way, really listening to each other. It’s important that you genuinely think it’s fair.  

  • Benefits: You may feel less guilty about enforcing rules, have fewer arguments, the child is likely to feel in control and take ownership of behaviour. JPS also allows changes to be made in a supportive and encouraging way. 
  • Downsides: it takes time and effort!  

Important things to consider before starting:  

  • Identify where and when to have this conversation, timing is important! Try to avoid having the conversation around the time or place the conflict/behaviour arises.  
  • Allow each other to speak in turn and really listen to what the other has to say  
  • Make sure you have enough time to talk things through properly  
  • Does anyone else need to be involved in the conversation?  

Creating a contract together can be a useful tool to keep you both accountable. Make sure you write out what you are agreeing to, and both of you should sign it to say you agree.  

  •         Does everyone actually agree?  
  •         Does everyone think that the contract is fair?  
  •         What are the consequences if someone breaks the contract?  

Sign and hang the contract somewhere where you can both see it and be reminded of what you have agreed to do. Re-visit the contract after a short while or if the contract is broken to see if it needs tweaking a little or if you’re both still happy with it. 

How Joint Problem Solving would handle our computer game scenario:

You both agree in advance what time your child will come down for dinner. This is a time that you are both happy with. You have agreed the consequences if this does not happen. 

It might not work first time and that’s okay. It’s normal to have to come back, reflect and tweak the agreement a little. Remember different styles can be useful in different situations.