Conflict is a part of life. I know people who thoroughly enjoy conflict and others who avoid it at all costs. One of the cornerstones I cover with adolescent boys and their parents is "conflict resolution." By utilizing my process, the family can communicate more effectively and peacefully.
We all know that one of the biggest mistakes in a conflict is when you "you" someone:
- "You” did that wrong
- "You” act like a child
- "You” never do what I ask you to do
- "You” don't think things through
- “You” need to get something done
It is the quickest way to escalate a conflict and typically turns into a confrontation. That’s why teaching the use of "I" statements is critical!
Using “I” statement examples:
- "I” would have done that differently
- "I” feel that was immature
- "I” would like you to do what I ask
- "I” would like to see you think things through
- "I” want you to get this done
Next we address the feeling and say what the feeling is!
Many times, counselors take the cognitive, cerebral, and/or intellectual only approach; however most adolescent males aren’t ready for this. They’re not rationally developed yet, remember they are physical and visual, get them in their “gut,” get to what they’re feeling!
With my clients (especially male adolescents) I keep it simple; focusing on the big four:
- I feel mad…
- I feel sad…
- I feel glad…
- I feel afraid…
I teach adolescent boys in The Quest Project, a 10-week modern-day rite of passage program, to take responsibility for issues that upset them and go right into how to resolve them. Most of the time those "issues" are with their parent(s). I teach the parents the same process. I recommend facilitating and practicing “how to” resolve a conflict. It’s not a comfortable process initially but gets easier with practice.
Families are amazed at how easily a conflict is resolved when approached correctly.
Keep in mind there are two things that are inevitable in a conflict: 1.) someone isn't listening, and 2.) someone isn't being heard or both.
If we fail to understand each other there is no resolution.
Conflict resolution is a learned process, I recommend we start teaching it early. Teaching adolescents early how to resolve conflict helps them as they grow and mature into adults. I also highly recommend for adults; teach by example and model the process so that they will do “what we do” instead of the opposite!
Clayton Lessor, PhD, LPC founded The Quest Project in 1996 and has since helped 2,000+ boys turn their life around to become the next Generation of Men. He is the author of two books, “Saving Our Sons-A Parent’s Guide to Preparing Boys for Success” and “Generation of Men-How to raise your son to be a healthy man among men.” Dr. Clay is an expert in childhood trauma and male adolescent development.