When we get into a conflict with others, we often wish we could just “get them” to change their behaviors or perspectives. We continue to struggle in the conflict, arguing in vain to “make them” do what we want or even think the way we want! No matter how hard we try, we cannot control another person’s inner thoughts and behaviors. They may cross our boundaries or engage in harmful behaviors to themselves or others, and we can still not control their behavior. When someone continually generates conflict in our lives or behaves against their own best interests, what can we do?
Parents Looking Out for Their Kids
Parents often struggle with these issues, particularly when their kids are going through challenging times. Kids might be facing addiction, running away, getting arrested, becoming defiant, or just going down the “wrong path.” As parents, we want what is best for them, yet we cannot completely control our kids. What can we control during a conflict?
The only thing we have any control over is our reactions and responses. Depending upon the situation, we might need to “jump in” to take charge or step back and decide consequences once we have dealt with our emotions.
Crises and Conflicts: What Is an Emergency?
When our kids engage in immediate, life-threatening behaviors, we need to intervene in these urgent crises. We might need assistance from an ambulance or police officers when there is a “life and limb” scenario occurring with our kids. However, even in this situation, we control our actions and respond accordingly as the situation dictates. Each situation with our kids requires differing levels of intervention on our end; not every time our child “slips up” or makes a mistake requires an emergency response.
As parents, we might view any mistake or slip-up as something that needs our control to prevent an emergency down the road. For example, when our kids fail class, we might catastrophize, jumping to conclusions of worst-case scenarios until we feel that we must gain control over the situation. These thoughts might look like this:
“If my kid fails his classes, he’ll get held back a year. Then, he might get discouraged and drop out! Without a diploma, who will hire him? Then, he’ll get into crime to make money to get by or live on the streets!”
We cannot control emergencies and disasters that might occur in the future. We can only remain present and deal with the current situation appropriately for what it is right now. An emergency requires an urgent response; a disappointing test grade requires a systematic, thoughtful approach.
The Importance of Separation When Things Get Heated
When our kids—or anyone—creates conflict with us, we might need to take some time to “cool off.” Creating space between ourselves can help us remain in control of the situation. Parents often think they have to act quickly in response to a child’s behavior. However, these “knee-jerk” reactions are often fueled by emotions (typically, by anger!).
Can we control our emotions? Somewhat, though, we might think of this more accurately as managing how we express and process emotions. When our kid calls us a derogatory name, or we find out that they are lying to us, we can be angry, sad, or disappointed. However, we need to own these emotions and hold back on reacting to them in the moment of conflict. Acknowledging that we are upset at the moment by saying, “I am upset right now and need time to think about how to deal with this” gives us a sense of control in the situation.
Sometimes, just knowing that we can take a minute to think is enough to put us back into the driver’s seat. When we cannot control another’s thoughts or behaviors, regaining a sense of self can prevent us from feeling like things are spiraling too far out of hand.
We Can Influence Kids by Example
One of the most valuable things that we can do during a conflict is setting the example by being the calm, rational, and collected person in the room. Setting an example can influence our kids to do better. When we meet a conflict by yelling back or reacting to our emotions, we unintentionally teach our kids to do the same.
During struggles or conflicts, our kids need us to be rational, thinking adults to see the long-term impact and plan accordingly. When our kids behave in a way that appears deserving of our love, the least is when they need love the most.
When getting into conflict with our kids over challenging behaviors, we wish we could just “make them” behave better. We expect that we could merely control what they do. We might get into screaming matches, hoping that we can somehow top them and “win” the fight. Unfortunately, we cannot control how anyone else thinks, feels, or acts. During a conflict or a crisis, we can only act following how the situation dictates. Emergencies, or “life and limb” scenarios, require us to take charge of our child’s safety. Other problems need us to be the rational-thinking adult in the room. Fire Mountain’s Aaron Huey dives into this topic with Dr. Charles Faye of the Love and Logic Institute during “Beyond Risk and Back.” If you are concerned for your child due to maladaptive behaviors or other challenges, call Fire Mountain Residential Treatment Center today at (303) 443-3343. We’re here to make your family’s fire burn brightest.