Nov 16, 2009

How Do Families Solve Conflicts?

We don't need to look in the dictionary to find out what the word "conflict" means. We know because we experience it often in many of our relationships. In our roles as bosses or employees, teachers or students, customers or clerks, friends, spouses, and certainly as parents or children, conflict seems inevitable.

Most of us have come to accept a certain amount of conflict in our lives as "normal" and have learned effective ways of handling it. This is certainly true in families where day-to-day living together regularly results in mild disagreements and disputes that are usually quickly resolved and forgotten. Unfortunately, more serious conflicts can also occur--fights that lead to resentment, hassles that come up over and over again, stand-offs that result in tension and alienation--making family life seem almost unbearable at times. In a Utopian world conflict would not exist, but the reality is that it does and will as long as people live and work together. Thus, the goal of P.E.T. is not to reduce it. Rather, the mission is to teach families skillful ways of handling and resolving conflict - constructive and healthy ways which give everyone a say.

Needs Versus Solutions

A common definition if "people fighting against each other." In a family, this definition suggests that the parents is trying to block what the child wants, and the child is struggling to block what the parent wants. Strange as it may sounds, this is almost never really the case! Most conflicts between a parent and a child are conflicts-of-solutions rather than conflicts-of-needs. Actually parents and children have essentially the same basic human needs. Conflicts result from the way in which the parent or child goes about meeting some important personal need.

So often parents and children get into conflicts because both fail to communicate their underlying needs to the other. Instead each sets out on a course of action (the solution) to meet a very legitimate need, and these incompatible solutions create the conflict.

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