Independence Day barbecue 370.
(photo credit: Tanya Sermer)
Dorit asks: “My brother has invited all the family for a
barbeque on Independence Day. I was very excited about it until my two kids,
aged 14 and 16, have announced they will be spending that day with their
I see great value in spending our holidays together as a
family, but I don’t want to force my kids to give up their plans and go
unwillingly with mine. What can I do? I am tired of discussing this issue over
and over again with them.
If we try hard we may recall how we behaved in a similar way
when we were young. Our parents always wanted us to engage in “boring old”
activities, and we were busy coming up with the cleverest of explanations about
why sadly we won’t be able to take part in their arrangements.
Still, Dorit holds these family gatherings very dear to her
and wants her children to take part in it. How can she convince her children to
join in willingly?
Creating a win-win solution
Dorit has to indicate to her children that she expects them
to respect and go along with what’s important to her, just as they often ask
her to respect and go along with what’s important to them.
But what happens when, like in this case, their wishes
collide? This might be the perfect time to sit down with the kids and try to
come up with a win-win solution.
Dorit should indicate to the children what’s really
important for her and try to determine what’s most important for them. For
example: Dorit really wants to spend some time together as a family with her
children, but she might not mind if it’s only for several hours. In that case
the kids can join in for the first part of the day and then be dropped off at
their friends’ houses for the second part of it.
In a different example
The kids might not be opposed to spending some time with
their family, but they also don’t want to miss out on the opportunity of
hanging out with their friends. In this case, Dorit can examine the option of
bringing some of their friends along to the family gathering or arranging a
small party later on in her place just for her kids’ friends.
Family before friends?
Dorit may decide that this situation is actually a win-lose
one, because her brother lives far and so they have to all go for a full day,
and the option of brining friends along is off the table.
In such a case, Dorit has to make a choice; either she
decides that spending time with the family is the most important thing for her
right now, even at the cost of grumpy uncooperative children, or she decides
she can skip this one and let the kids have it.
If she decides on the first, it’s important she explain to
her children that because of the circumstances there is no room for negotiating
a solution that will fit all. She can then ask the kids to respect her decision
and promise to do the same the next time such a dilemma comes up.
If she decides to go with the second option, Dorit can let
the overjoyed kids know that she was willing to compromise on this point,
knowing how important it was for them, and letting them know she’ll be looking
for the same understanding on their part, next time around.
Conflicts inside the family are tricky, since they involve
emotions and a lot of shared history, which may cloud the resolution attempts.
On top of that, family usually stays around, which means future conflicts are
just around the corner.
This is why it’s so important to handle each conflict inside
the family with special care. This time you may have the upper hand or the
ability to get your wishes fulfilled at the expense of others, but next time it
may be that someone else will have that privilege. If you want to make sure
that you’ll be treated fairly, do everything in your power to introduce
fairness this time around.
Shimrit Nothman has a Masters degree in Conflict Resolution and believes that like charity, conflict resolution begins at home. If you have any questions for Shimrit, please use the comments section below or email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.