Caveman Conversations – How to Avoid Fight or Flight When Talking to Your Child

Caveman Conversations – How to Avoid Fight or Flight When Talking to Your Child

By David Benzel

It’s been said that nothing dictates the quality of our relationships more than the quality of our conversations. When conversations with our children are filled with unguarded openness, sincere respect, and important information our closeness elevates. On the other hand, we’ve all had those conversations when the living room felt more like a courtroom with prosecutors arguing every point like a trained attorney and defendants pleading the 5th Amendment.

When conversations get ugly one or more family members have chosen to head toward fight or flight – battle or retreat – both verbally and sometimes physically. Neither one of these alternatives will give you the most important outcome you ultimately desire with your child…trust and closeness.

The fight option usually starts with someone choosing to lecture in order to control the outcome of a conversation. This is the first sign that a healthy conversation is slipping away. Lecture, name calling, and accusing are conversational landmines for families.

The flight option usually starts with someone spinning their story to make them sound guiltless or flawless. A healthy conversation is fading fast once excuses, hiding information, and withdrawing (silent treatment) are used as conversational tactics.

So how can families avoid these common traps and maintain truly healthy conversations in which no one chooses fight or flight? First, sit down as a family and have a conversation about conversations! Discuss the guidelines that everyone is expected to follow at all times in all conversations, even when emotions are running high.

Here are four conversation strategies you can adopt for your family that insure success.

  1. Show ultimate respect in tone, words, and body language no matter how upset you feel. If necessary take a short time-out to cool down before emotions take over.
  2. Invite each person to share their honest feelings, facts, and opinions without interruption.
  3. Try to find the lowest common denominator in a conflict. What is it that everyone agrees upon? What is the one thing everyone wants?
  4. Demonstrate an honest attempt to see a situation from another person’s perspective and acknowledge that you want to understand, not just be understood.

If your number one goal is improving relationships through conversation, rather than being “right”, your chances for family harmony are dramatically higher.

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David Benzel is the Founder and Executive Director of Growing Champions for Life, Inc., which provides parents and coaches with practical tools & positive strategies for helping athletes reach their full potential while enjoying the youth sport experience. David is also the author of “From Chump to Champ – How Individuals Go From Good to Great”