Hi! I'm Coach Franny, and I empower families with challenging children to come together as problem solving teams through a Mindful-Ish® approach to parenting.
No parent is perfect, and even the most Mindful-Ish® parents will experience some form of conflict with their families. Conflict is natural, but what really matters is how we choose to handle it.
Conflict within your family is particularly stressful because there are other strong emotions involved, as well as a power dynamic between parent and child. We designed the LEADS method of conflict resolution specifically to help parents and their children stay Mindful-Ish® during times of conflict so you can work through the problem and resolve the conflict as a team. Conflict is inevitable and natural, so how we handle it is more important than trying to stop it.
Oftentimes conflict resolution strategies are offered in lists of independent approaches to solving conflict. The LEADS method is different because it requires all of the steps – and all parties in the conflict – to work together and create a lasting solution.
The LEADS Method consists of 5 stages:
You can only solve a problem if you know what the problem is. When you notice conflict in your family or between yourself and one of your children, label it an unsolved problem. Ask yourself what is happening, what is your expectation, and what your concerns are.
Example: Your children have been fighting over what to watch on YouTube after dinner. There has been a lot of yelling from the family room and sometimes physical fighting. You expect your children to agree on a show. Your concerns are that you cannot finish cleaning up the kitchen, feel stressed, and are worried one of the kids will get hurt.
This is a big paradigm shift. In the past, we were taught to focus on how to modify behavior. We would be distressed about who started it, who said what, and who did what to whom first. Instead, we are bringing attention to the problem and working to solve it. If you need skills to help you with this shift, read this post about effectively communicating your feelings without creating shame or causing blame.
The heat of the moment is never the time to talk. All that we can do once a conflict arises is to try and calm the situation. This is called crisis management. The primary problem-solving model we use at Mindful-Ish® is Collaborative and Proactive Solutions (CPS), which encourages crisis prevention. This means we will find a time to discuss and unsolved problem before it can happen again. CPS calls this a Plan B Conversation.
Example: I notice you guys have difficulty agreeing on what to watch on YouTube after dinner lately. I imagine you both have things you want to tell me that are important to you, and I want to make the time to hear about them. Are you two willing to solve this problem when we get home from school so we can try to find a solution before dinner and TV time this evening?
Just like you have concerns about the unsolved problem, the other parties involved likely also have concerns to share. When you calmly and respectfully facilitate a Plan B Conversation, you create a safe space for your family to develop many skills essential to social and emotional intelligence needed for lifelong success.
During a Plan B Conversation, there are three essential steps: The Empathy Step, the Define the Problem Step, and the Invitation Step.
The Empathy Step is where you learn about your children’s or other party’s concerns about the unsolved problem you are discussing. This is when they can tell you what is difficult about meeting the expectation or what is getting in their way.
Example: I notice you guys have difficulty agreeing on what to watch on YouTube after dinner lately. What’s up?
Child A: “I don’t like his shows, they scare me and he knows it.”
Child B: “He only watches baby shows, and I’m not a baby
You may do this step together or one child at a time. It is NOT the time to judge or dismiss the child’s experience. You can’t solve a problem with anyone unless you understand where they are coming from, which is why it is important to take this time to learn what is problematic from their point of view.
The next step of the Plan B Conversation is the Define the Problem Step. This is when you share your concerns about the unsolved problem and how it impacts you, the children, or others.
Example: The thing is, when you and your brother have difficulty agreeing on what to watch on YouTube, I’m not able to finish cleaning up the kitchen, feel stressed, and worry about one of you getting hurt.
The third step of a Plan B Conversation is the Invitation Step. Here we form a solution that considers everyone’s prioritized concerns. During the other steps, individuals may voice more than one concern. We ask everyone to prioritize the concern getting in their way or impacting them the most. Tackling the entire unsolved problem right out of the gate is like expecting your team to make a touchdown from near the opposite endzone. It happens, but it’s not the norm. At Mindful-Ish®, we believe in making incremental yardage up the field together. Solving for solutions to prioritized concerns supports this notion.
Example: I wonder if there is a way to do something about not seeing zombies before bedtime (Child A’s prioritized concern), getting to watch more age-appropriate shows (Child B’s prioritized concern), and everyone being safe after dinner while I clean up the kitchen (Parent’s prioritized concern)?
The kids get the first chance to develop solutions, but it is a team effort, and there are two criteria solutions must meet.
So, if one of the children from our example suggested their sibling move to grandma’s house, we might say, “Let’s see if that solution meets our test.” The suggestion would fail to pass the realistic measure – something we could really do.
Or, let’s say the older child who would like to watch big kid shows suggested, “It’s fine. I’ll watch baby shows after dinner with him so you can clean up.” You can express your gratitude for your child’s willingness to make things easier, but that would not cover his concern and, therefore, does not meet criteria number two. Likewise, if you said, “That’s it – no more YouTube after dinner.” You would impose a solution that does not consider the children’s concerns, may not be realistic after a few days and robs your children of the chance to problem-solve issues affecting their lives.
Once a proposed solution meets the criteria, we agree to try it out for some time. It could be three days or two weeks. Whatever works best for your family, see if the solution stands the test of time… and it may not, especially when you are new to this kind of conflict resolution. We ask you to keep going and avoid falling down the rabbit hole of rewards and punishments to make a solution stick.
When an agreed-upon solution does not work, a few things could get in the way. There could be a new or previously unrealized concern that was not considered. The solution may not be as realistic or address each party’s concern as initially thought. Invite your team back to the problem-solving table or family huddle and create solutions with the new information that has come to light.
Finally, we want to stay engaged with the solution we created. Has the conflict resurfaced, or are things relatively smooth? Do all parties feel satisfied with the solution? Just as it is important to name the conflict at the beginning of this exercise, it is vital to continue checking in with the conflict and solution to ensure things are still working as desired.
Many of the steps outlined in the LEADS method of conflict resolution employ techniques that stem from Active Listening, a way of listening and responding to another person that improves mutual understanding and helps both parties work towards a common goal.
Want to learn more about active listening? Check out our exclusive membership, GameTime, to learn more about active listening, the roadblocks to communication, and three specific shifts you can make to be more Mindful-Ish®.