Family Conflict and Negotiation
Family problems are a normal, natural and unavoidable part of family life, especially during the teenage years. There's nothing wrong with a family just because they have conflicts. It isn't the problems in daily family life that do damage to family relationships. It's how those problems do or do not get solved that does damage.
The trouble with most family conflicts is that someone wins and someone loses, or in some cases, everyone loses. Parents and teens back themselves, or get backed into opposing corners and the original issue itself often gets lost. The issue then becomes one of power and authority.
In some cases, it is necessary for parents to assert their power and authority. Like it or not they are legally responsible for their children, and can be held accountable for their children's actions. However, there are many other situations in which both parents and teens could negotiate to benefit everyone involved.
The "I Win, You Lose," concept of problem solving is so common in our culture that many opportunities for resolving family conflicts are missed. Negotiation can often solve conflicts by helping meet the needs of both parents. and teenagers. It can also help improve family relationships by showing consideration and respect for each person's need.
In reality, issues are rarely black or white, right or wrong, or all or nothing. There are often several equally valid ways to look at the same situation. It is human nature for people to object to feeling that they have been taken advantage of or treated with disrespect, yet both parents and teenagers are often willing to compromise if they feel the other is willing to do the same.
Instead of getting stuck in dead-end disputes parents and teenagers can negotiate solutions to family problems by searching for areas in which they can agree or are willing to compromise.
Suggestions for successful negotiation:
- Take one problem at a time.
- Don't try to negotiate when angry or upset.
- Set a mutually agreeable time and place to discuss the problem. (Spontaneous problem solving discussions are not a good idea.)
- Briefly define the problem using "I" statements, such as "I feel this is a problem because..."
- Ask for other's thoughts and feelings about the problem.
- Look for possible areas of agreement or compromise. Offer alternatives.
More information on negotiation and dealing with family conflicts can be found in the books "Surviving Your Adolescents" by Thomas W. Phelan, Ph.D and "Bringing Up Parents: The Teenager's Handbook" by Alex J. Packer Ph.D., or call the Trinity Adolescent Program at (515) 573-6333.
This article was written by Pam Lehman, a counselor with the Trinity Recovery Center at Trinity Regional Hospital. Pam has a Master of Science degree in counseling.
Reprinted with the permission of the Community Action Network. © Community Action Network, All Rights Reserved.
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