One way to avoid emotional outbursts with our children is to understand the difference between tasks, problems, and conflict. Tasks are the normal things parents do each day. You get kids out of bed, make sure they’re dressed, provide breakfast, check that they have all the things they’ll need for the day, and get out the door. Then you’ll stop by the drug store to pick up the prescription and drop by the library to return the books on your way home. Tasks are the to-do list of a parent. They’re work but they’re expected. It’s part of the job.
Problems are different. They’re obstacles that get in the way of your goals. Your son is playing with his video game when he should be getting dressed. You can’t find the prescription you need and you’re missing a library book. Your daughter’s homework isn’t in her backpack again and she can’t find her other shoe. It’s not usually the tasks that create the tension in family life. It’s the problems that get in the way.
Conflict happens when we allow problems to escalate, typically through emotional intensity. Problems plus emotions can quickly lead to conflict.
Here’s an important rule: Don’t turn problems into conflict. Instead look for ways to turn problems into additional tasks by developing a plan to solve them.
Training children is a task, not a problem. The difference has to do with your expectations. If you’re surprised by your son’s resistance to instructions, then you’re liable to view it as a personal attack and escalate to conflict. But the reality is that your son’s resistance is an indication of a character weakness. It’s a problem. Part of your job as a parent is to train your child. Allow the problem of resistance to become a task of training. Develop a plan to challenge the poor character in your son and you now can approach the task of raising him using a calm, but firm manner. It’s just another one of the tasks of your job as a parent.