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How to curb the arguing

In many families, parents think the kids will grow up to be lawyers because they seem to love to argue.

In Nancy Milton's family, the parents are attorneys, but they try to keep the arguing to a minimum.

Milton's specialty is mediation. And she's found the technique works well in her family life, too. Here's how it works:

A FAMILY MEETING

Milton has two kids at home, 8-year-old Matthias and 13-year-old Elaina.

She and her husband, Joe, who also is an attorney, instituted a family meeting, convened by the parents or called by the kids when they have a beef.

"Each person gets a chance to speak," Milton said. "Without interruption."

Mediation techniques also involve validation.

"One listens to the other party and then may say something like, ‘It sounds like you are very frustrated (upset, angry, sad, happy -- whatever the emotion) with the situation'," Milton explained.

"It is amazing how people and children respond if they are validated," she said.

KID PARTICIPATION

When kids participate, they feel more like they have a stake in whatever's decided.

Sometimes, they do get what they want.

Elaina asked for a cell phone and presented her case at a family meeting.

She got the phone, and Milton now sees that it was a good thing to have.

Milton also believes her kids can help each other if they talk things out.

If, for example, her son is being teased by older boys, his sister might have insight into what's going on with those boys.

"She might have good ideas'' for improving the situation, Milton said.

MAKE IT A HABIT

Though she hasn't seen her kids automatically turn to mediation skills when they have arguments, she sees them working in the system of the family meetings.

They have their say, listen for understanding and wait to respond.

"We definitely know the format now," she said.

And she doesn't have to remind them not to interrupt quite as often as with some of the divorcing couples she deals with at work.

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