Navigating conflict

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The negotiations seemed to drag on.

Neither side willing to relinquish his desires.

It seemed to take everything I had not to 
step in,
speak for,
make the decision,
and move on.

I was tired and this felt like it was going no where.

There was a lot at stake after all. 
Who got to spend the night in Mama's bed.

You see each week Friday and Saturday nights
I'm cuddling up to a little boy to go to sleep
They each get a night
and why Friday holds so much more weight I'll never know.

But it does.
and here we were
A-man coming off 3 nights in a row and scheduled for his forth (it was break week so different rules of course:-) 
and D-man was not going quietly.

He wanted tonight.
Tomorrow just wouldn't do.
He was prepared to fight.

And as the divide only seemed to grow deeper,
I wanted to throw up my hands
yelling if you can figure this out then
no one gets tonight
and stomp away as the tears 
and fighting erupted.

But I knew I had a choice.
To hold the space for them,
to guide them through navigating this conflict
to finding an empowered solution
where both boy feels a winner.

Because the alternative
would be to teach them that conflict is a bad thing
and handled with yelling and upset.
I would have taught them once again how 
they don't have control over their choices 
and that would have played out in behavior 
most likely against each other
as the blame flew.

So I sat
speaking when necessary
validating and mirroring feelings and words
encouraging negotiation in a kind and loving way
supporting both boys in knowing that just because the 
other felt differently
and just as strongly about their position
that did not make their feelings wrong
and this wasn't about creating a winner and a loser
but finding a solution.

In the end, D-man offered his brother that Saturday and both nights the next weekend.
And because his brother felt safe
he spoke about how unfair it felt that D-man got to sleep on his cot in mama's room every night and he had to 
be all alone in his room.

And without suggestion his brother stated he'd start going to bed in his own room
if I'd lay with him for 10 minutes each night.

Each boy walked away satisfied with the solution
and I have a boy that just sleep trained himself back into his room <3

What becomes possible when we teach the art of navigating different wants, opinions and desires to our child. When we remove conflict as being anything more than that. We wouldn't have to avoid conflict as being something scary or bad.

What becomes possible for them?

But first, it begins with us as parents.
To work through our emotional reactivity to be able to approach our child with peace.
To learn the tools to navigate conflict and to discover our beliefs around conflict that holds us in fear.

Emotional reactivity comes from unresolved triggers hidden beneath the layers that become who we are.
Uncovering the stories beneath the emotions frees us to be present with our child, to support them to thrive without projecting our baggage on our children.

I took on the role of peacemaker.
Before doing the work this scenario would have played out in one of two ways...
avoiding conflict by giving in to both boys and lying awake sandwiched between them all night and then grumpy and resentful the next day from lack of sleep and inability to hold my boundary


sending both boys to their room
yelling and blaming them for causing me to get angry
and then while they cried
likely checking out with a tv show or social media.

Neither of which would have taught my boys 
the lessons that I wish to instill in them
and sometimes that takes more time in the moment, 
reflection and awareness within myself
and a willingness to be the parent they need me to be.

Most of weren’t fortunate to grow up in a home that taught
the art of navigating conflict. For many of us conflict was either
avoided at all costs or handled with anger, shame and blame.
Either way we weren’t given the tools to navigate through
but instead took in the message that conflict is bad
and has to be filled with anger
and someone ends up hurting or giving up what they want to make others happy.

This fear and struggle around conflict can show up in multiple ways
as a parent.
We struggle with holding and keeping limits and boundaries with our child.
We get triggered by sibling fighting and conflict.
We fear not being liked or we’re challenged to stand in our child’s
big emotions always fighting the need to fix and control.

But conflict doesn’t have to be feared
or avoided or expressed through anger.
Conflict can be a space for different wants, or desires or preferences
and when it can be thought of as a collaborative space
where each party can express their desires
and a mutual agreement
or a win-win can be reached.

Life doesn’t have to be an either-or,
it can be a both and more
and we get to create that space for our child when we heal ourselves first.

Next time your faced with conflict,
I lovingly challenge you to breathe through it,
look for the opportunity for both sides to be heard,
and a collaborative agreement can be reached.

When we start to think differently about conflict,
we feel differently when we are presented with conflict,
and when we feel differently we take different action,
creating a very different result.

Ready for a new perspective? Click here for support in your parenting!

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Irene is a certified parenting coach who is passionate about creating peace in parenting and opening parents hearts to what is possible in their family. She works with clients 1-1 and offers support through her digital course, The Peaceful Parent Playbook. She is host of the private Facebook Community, The Moms Hive. She is inspired to help moms let go of the doing that leads to the overwhelm and more “bee-ing” in peace, joy and a love for parenting.

Irene McKenna