According to Stephen Covey’s book Seven Habits of Highly Effective Families, there are five ways to resolve a conflict with someone. There are the four options in the chart above and the option of agreeing to walk away from participating in the argument at all.
When you interact with your child, try to find ways in which you can both win. To do this, first find their underlying need. (Keep in mind that “winning” for the parent means setting boundaries against inappropriate behavior.)
There are times in life when you think it is impossible for you both to win. If one person wants the window open and the other, in the same room, wants it closed, it doesn’t appear as if both people can be happy. But if you try to determine both parties’ underlying need, you can.
The first wants the window open to catch a fresh breeze. The second doesn’t want his papers to blow away. A solution could be for the second to use a paperweight.
Maybe the first is hot and the second is cold. Maybe the second could wear a sweater.
With your child, try to figure out the underlying need.
If your child wants to drink juice on the couch, try to figure out their real need. Do they have a need to have a comfortable chair? Try putting a comfy chair in the kitchen. Do they want to be where all the other people are? Have people move into the kitchen or put a towel on the couch beneath her. (Don’t do a long negotiation on this, though, and be sure that appropriate limits are set.)
If your child has a need to yell during play and it hurts your ears, let them go outside to yell.
Perhaps your child hates sitting in the cart during grocery shopping. Maybe their need is to be moving and active. Get your kid a shopping cart so she can walk around. Maybe they are bored. Get them to participate in the shopping. “Would you please put the orange juice in the cart?”
When they are older, you can brainstorm solutions with them. But at this age, it is up to you to figure out what their need is.
Of course, sometimes, they just need to follow our directions for safety reasons or for the sake of the functioning of the family.
This is tricky as a new parent. It is our job to be aware of what the developmental barriers to your child’s understanding are and what his physical needs are. Children are qualitatively different from adults both emotionally and cognitively. So we need to meet them where they are and slowly over the next fifteen years guide them to adulthood according to their biological, emotional timetable.
On the other hand, while we have to understand their developmental needs, we also are in charge and have to set limits on inappropriate behavior.