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Parenting on the Edge: Why mediating kids' disputes works better than resolving them yourself

November 21, 2009 |  7:00 am
MadeleineBrandMediate

MadeleineBrandMediate2Some of us are conflict avoiders. Some of us are conflict seekers. Sometimes it seems as if our children are all conflict seekers and we parents are conflict avoiders — or conflict stiflers.

In my latest "Parenting on the Edge" podcast, I explore the best way to resolve our children’s conflicts. It turns out the best solution may be not to resolve them at all.

Susie North, the professional mediator and parent educator pictured at right, says moms and dads shouldn’t try to decide who started the fight, who had the toy first, who’s right or who’s wrong. Instead, parents should teach kids to resolve their own problems. Mediate, don’t arbitrate.

That sounds good, but it also takes a lot of a parent’s time and effort — a lot more time than simply making a decision and moving on. What if you’re rushing the kids to school and need to get to work, and the kids are screaming at each other in the back of the car? What if the children’s disputes escalate into physical aggression? Do you make children say they’re sorry, even if they’re not? And why?

North talks through the answers and explains how being a mediator may help Mom and Dad as much as it does the kids. “It’s shockingly similar working with adults as working with children,” North says. “We’re all people and we all have these emotions. Most conflicts boil down to possession or respect — in the sandbox, in the boardroom, at the U.N. Think about it.” 

Click here and you'll get it all: the podcast, the gallery of photos taken during the taping at the Los Angeles Family School, and the link to North's tips for moderating disputes between siblings. 

-- Madeleine Brand

Photos: Allen J. Schaben / Los Angeles Times

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