Will the fighting ever stop?

That's what I asked myself when my kids were little.

Every five minutes, my kids would run up to me crying and pointing angrily at one another. I'd listen to each one and then bang the gavel or blow the whistle – I'd hand down a decision—just so we could get on with things.

It's a quick shutdown in the short term, but pretty ineffective for the long haul. Sometimes it just felt like I'd re-set the button for another conflict. It seemed like I was engaged in an endless game of Whac-A-Mole.

The same thing happened in my preschool classroom. I felt as though teaching was something I did in the few moments left between refereeing disagreements. I was sure the kids’ problems were mine to solve, and I was completely overwhelmed.

I'm deeply grateful to the preschool teachers who taught me to step back so the kids could step up.

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With their guidance, I stopped using my authority to advise and decide and judge, and I learned that I could use it to ask great questions and to encourage my kids to take responsibility for resolving their own conflicts.

I was surprised to learn that the solutions the kids crafted themselves were usually more meaningful, durable and practical than anything I could come up with. That was true with my own kids, too.

I was so sold on the power of mediation that I became a professional mediator.

Now I share these highly effective mediation tools with parents who are drowning in squabbles – so they can help their kids resolve their own conflicts.

Will the fighting ever stop?

Not completely, because your kids are human, and humans live with conflict. An end to conflict is not something I can promise! In fact, I encourage you to think of peace not just as the absence of conflict but as the work of dealing with conflict.

Conflict is here to stay, but peaceful conflict resolution builds character, promotes harmonious relationships and makes the world a better place.

Susie North has been working with families and children for forty-plus years as a nursery school teacher/director and in various parent education settings. More recently, she has added conflict resolution to her professional toolbox.

“Squabblefest” braids together her three passions: child development, parent education and mediation.