Conflict Resolution–Useful Skill in a Tiny RV and in Life.

A side effect of unschooling 3 kids while in an RV is that we are really learning to work together. I mean, there’s only 35 feet of space for all of us to exist in. We go everywhere together. And if we’re not going somewhere together, we have to coordinate everyone’s schedules so that all of us get to do what it is we want to.

together.

The #1 comment I hear from parents with kids in school, when they know I homeschool, is this: “I could never do that. All day with my kid? We’d kill each other!” I think they’re kidding, or at least using hyperbole. And really, I get it. When Naturalist was in school, our days together when she got back were horrible. I was stuck with making her do her homework, chores, responsibilities in the 4 hours we spent before her bedtime. It was clash of the titans, and I never would have signed on to homeschool thinking I’d have that 24/7.

But that’s not how it is for us, and I realized how powerful and important it was for her to feel like she had control and a say in her daily schedule. Once we could work out our own study schedule and routine, 99% of our conflict went away. Because she was only 8 at the time, I underestimated both her ability and her need for such an ‘adult’ thing as responsibility for herself.

In my experience, conflict is caused by misunderstanding, and it is widespread in families. Everyone has needs, and conflict arises when someone isn’t getting their needs met and uses whatever form of expression they can to keep trying to get someone to understand them.

Understanding someone, really truly understanding who they are and what they need, takes respect from both people. I can’t think of a more disrespected group than kids. Think about how often they are stopped from doing something because “they’re just a kid”, or “too young to …. (fill in the blank)”. If kids were respected more, public school would look a lot different. Corporal punishment would be non existent.

It’s pretty much unacceptable to say that about any other group, even if people still think it. But seriously, when I get the “you can’t do it, you’re just a woman” vibe from someone, I lose it. In that case, I’ve got your conflict right here, buddy.

My first step in counteracting conflict in my RV and with my kids is to help them feel that I really love and respect them totally. And I’ve come up with a quick and easy way to do it, because in case you haven’t figured it out already, I’m pretty much a genius. I’ll share it so you can do it too, and tell me if you get the same positive results I have.

First, you have to speak their language. By that, I mean, help them translate your words into their experience. To do this, take some time to listen to their positive statements. Things like, “I love chocolate ice cream!” or, “The new gamecube game rocks!” or “This computer game is soooo cool!” And then, every time they make a statement like that, you do this:

kid: “I love chocolate ice cream!”
you: “You know what I love more than you love that?”
kid: “what?”
you: “YOU!”

or

kid: “The new gamecube game rocks!”
you: “You know what rocks more than that new gamecube game?”
kid: “what?”
you: “YOU!”

or

kid: “This computer game is so cool!”
you: “You know what’s cooler than that game?”
kid: “What?”
you: “YOU!”

see what I mean? It’s not brain surgery, and is pretty simple, right? It just takes you being attentive to what they’re really in to, and then letting them know that you feel that much love/appreciation/esteem for them. This one step alone has reduced conflict in our home, because that kind of vibe goes a long way to calming everyone’s nerves. I make sure I do this ESPECIALLY when what I really want to do is pull my hair out. It reminds me that this little person in front of me is the greatest gift I’ve ever been given, and they deserve to know that’s how I feel about them. What’s cool is when they start doing it back to you.

Try it, and let me know if you notice anything change in yourself and your kids (and, actually the people around you. I do this with Hubby too, and friends, and now it’s such a habit I’m tempted to do it to strangers too, when I hear someone talk about something they love. Maybe that’s not such a bad idea! Who doesn’t like to feel loved?!). It’s made a big difference over here, which is important when you’re talking about only 35 feet of space.

FYI, I’ve read an amazing book on conflict and peace and it’s stayed on my bookshelf to reference all the time…a really powerful and insightful read I recommend to everyone:
The Anatomy of Peace: Resolving the Heart of Conflict

Yusuf al-Falah, an Arab, and Avi Rozen, a Jew, each lost his father at the hands of the other’s ethnic cousins. As the story unfolds, we discover how they came together, how they help warring parents and children to come together, and how we too can find our way out of the struggles that weigh us down. The choice between peace and war lies within us. As one of the characters says, “A solution to the inner war solves the outer war as well.”

And I’m reading this book right now on the advice of a friend:

Nonviolent Communication: A Language of Life

Unfortunately, for centuries our culture has taught us to think and speak in ways that can actually perpetuate conflict, internal pain and even violence. Nonviolent Communication partners practical skills with a powerful consciousness and vocabulary to help you get what you want peacefully.

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Meanwhile, in Colorado, it’s gray and cold.

This “free wifi” is costing me money.

Photo on 2010-04-16 at 16

The raspberry chocolate cupcakes are really good, as is the double peppermint hot chocolate!

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