Today, I’m going to share with you 5 Tips for managing family conflict!

School is out for the summer! The kids are home and the weather is beautiful which means lots more time for fun adventures and meaningful family time.

But like many parents, maybe you find yourself anxiously awaiting the family arguments that will occur when all the kids are all home. Maybe you’re already looking forward to the next school year.

You’re not alone.

Summer break means college kids, used to their independence, are now back at home. It means teens with fresh drivers’ licenses now have time to explore their new found freedom. It means more time for youth to use and abuse technology, and more time for kids to have to share their toys with their brothers and sisters.

It is very normal for summer, while a wonderfully fun time of the year, to also produce with more family conflict.

To help you keep the peace this summer, here are five pro-tips for managing family conflict.

1. Use “I”-statements: When the tantrums begin to boil up and the frustration mounts, take a deep breath and objectively tell your family what you observe. Try “Caitlyn, I see you and Nick fighting over that toy. I think you want to use it right now, and I think he wants to use it too. Is that right? I feel sad that you aren’t able to play with it together. I want to help us get along and have a fun afternoon together.”I think, I see, I feel, and I want, are great ways to start working through conflict.

2. Ask about expectations and fears: At the root of many family fights are broken expectations and exposed fears. When your kids get angry, ask them what their expectations were for a situation before the incident happened. Gently ask, “what were you hoping would happen?” or “what did you think your brother was going to do?” Chances are your child is angry because their expectations weren’t met. Follow up their answer by asking about fears associated with the expectation. Maybe your son is worried that if he can’t drive the car tonight his friends will think less of him.It doesn’t mean you need to give him the car, but it helps you understand his motivation and emotional reactions.

3. Follow through with appropriate consequences. At the beginning of the summer, take a few minutes as a family to set family guidelines regarding technology, chores, and privileges. As a group, define age-appropriate consequences if the guidelines are broken. Write it down and tape it where everyone can see it so that the whole family has something to point to when conflicts arise.  The refrigerator or family command center is a great spot.

And allow the kids to make sure you follow the guidelines too, of course!

4. Give kids affirmative directions. That means telling them what you want them to do, not only what you don’t want them to do. Lifeguards are experts at this technique. They say “Walk!” instead of “Don’t run!”.This helps kids know what the appropriate alternative to their behavior. While you don’t want to prescribe everything your child should do during the day, aim to provide them with positive choices instead of just pointing out their negative action.

So instead of telling your kids “Don’t talk to me like that young lady!” try “Hey kiddo, I’d really appreciate if you told me how you were feeling in a more respectful way.”  Be specific with your hopes for your child’s behavior. “Don’t wander off” can be replaced with “please keep a hand on the cart while we’re at the store.” In general saying, “Please do this…” is better than “Stop!” or “Don’t…”

5. Do what you want your kids to do. We all know that actions speak louder than words, but this is especially true for children.

If you want your kids to not play video games, scroll social, or watch television all summer long, then you need to set the example and limit your own screen time too, showing your kids that there are other ways to enjoy life.

Or if you’re hoping that the kids will learn to compromise and be creative in their problem solving skills, then you need to role model healthy conflict resolution and communication in your adult relationships, such as with your partner, friends, extended family and co-workers.

Kids learn by watching you.

In all this, don’t be afraid to ask for help. Give me a call. I’d love to meet you and your family, and work with you to make this summer a peaceful one.


Christina Paulsen

Christina Paulsen

Couples & Family Therapist

Life is hard and we all go through times of suffering. But feeling overwhelmed, constantly arguing, and surrendering to the current norm doesn’t have to be the end of the story. I help couples and families to experience the meaningful change that they long for.

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