Teaching Children How to Deal With Conflict
By Bob Minhas
A father’s perspective: The conflict resolution strategies I want to teach my children.
As a father and first generation desi, I’m often at conflict with the traditional values that my parents live with. To be fair, these are values that have served them for generations and have never been questioned. There really was no need for them to be questioned. As long as we saw family members growing up healthy, succeeding in their careers, settling down with a family and eventually waiting for grandchildren, it meant everything was going perfectly. Right?
Here’s the issue: we’ve changed as a society. Especially in Canada. What once worked for our parents in a small village in India doesn’t work for us in a major metropolitan city in Canada. We, as human beings, need to communicate differently. As such, conflict resolution is different.
Let me preface this with the notion that I lived with parents that had an arranged marriage, and then divorced. So I haven’t had the same upbringing as many of my desi counterparts. I still lived that “keep quiet and move on” life. I lived it until I moved to University on my own when I realized what my values and beliefs learned were at odds with developing a happy and healthy relationship. I struggled until I met my now ex-wife who accepted me for what I was. She of course was a gori, whom I married and had 3 beautiful children with.
Over the next 15 years I found that I distanced myself more and more from my heritage. Not because of any outside or anyone’s influence. I was constantly at odds with my family who tried to place expectations on me that I just didn’t want or couldn’t meet. I just didn’t communicate that well. Over time, that conflict just transformed to anger and I carried that anger up until my marriage broke up and I lost my business of 10 years. A business and marriage that carried an identity that was not built on those Indian values. My identity.
This stemmed from another breakdown in communication and conflict resolution. And when that change happened I tried really hard to look and reflect on my life, and try and understand what I really wanted. Through all the different things that appeared in my head, I knew I wanted to be the parent that I believed I never had. Meaning … I had to learn to communicate better.
At this point my children were 7, 5 and 3. I still had time to make this change. I would strive to no longer be the parent that worked all the time and left all that responsibility to my wife. But, instead, take an active role in their lives and developing their identity. But, first I had to make that change in me. I had to let go of anger and sadness and ego.
I had to lighten control and allow myself to start feeling the same feelings I wanted my children to feel. This in turn would allow me to talk about my feelings and show them it was OK to be vulnerable. It’s still a work in progress with me and I do work on communicating with their mother to ensure we are in agreement on how we together expect them to communicate and deal with conflict.
I work to give my children 3 simple rules when dealing with conflict.
- To all my children: When someone hurts you, physically or emotionally, walk away and tell someone who loves you.Never carry that hurt with you.
- To my eldest son: It is your responsibility to watch over your younger brother and sister, especially now with your parents being apart.This doesn’t mean boss them around. It means to watch and guide them. Help them when they need it. And, most importantly, be an exemplary role model to them. When someone hits you, tell an adult. If someone yells at you, talk it out with them. If you’re scared, find someone who loves you and tell them. Show your brother and sister that this works, and they will follow your lead. (One Exception: If any male puts their hands on your sister, knock them out. Then walk away and tell someone. I’ll be honest in that their mother and I don’t fully agree on this concept which is why I haven’t yet given this exception to my youngest son until I feel he can manage this expectation. It is, after all, a work in progress.)
- To all my children: If one of you is in trouble, find the others.If one of you sees the other in trouble, stand behind them to support them. Let them deal with the conflict themselves but let them know you are there. Do this so they feel safe and know they are not alone, even if they are in the wrong. (Again, the exception: Hands on your sister rule written above!)
In the generation I live in, and the generation my children grow up in, communication will always be paramount in everything we do with relationships. Especially in resolving conflict. Whether that conflict is with someone else or even within themselves. And these three rules are (in my mind) designed to combat conflict in both those cases with a meld of login and ethics, and love and support.
Read more from Bob here.
Follow him on twitter at @BobMinhas
More about the Author:
Bob Minhas is the President of Oxygen Media Canada. The Captain of this moving ship. His key role is to work on the big picture that is Oxygen. He focuses on sourcing larger opportunities and on ensuring that everything within the tight ship is moving smoothly. He empowers senior team members to take action as they see fit to create a “family” corporate culture environment. Since 2003, Bob has owned and operated a small company, AlphaStarr Technical Solutions Inc., providing the latest and greatest consumer technologies. His expertise ranges from security systems, to audio/visual, to IT. The goal is supplying the right fit solution to each and every client.
And, HGTV personalities Mike Holmes, Bryan Baeumler, and Scott McGillivray are high-profile clients that have relied on Bob’s expertise for their home improvement projects. As a graduate of University of Toronto, Bob is trained in wireless telecommunications and networking management. As a busy and proud father of 3 children, he is experimenting with new things in life. Exploring travel destinations and outdoor adventures, returning to the love of music, as well as embracing a healthier lifestyle, Bob is ready to take it all in.
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