Learning to "agree to disagree" is an important skill for both children and adults. Brothers and sisters are going to squabble with each other, no matter what their age and personality differences, and in spite of the best parenting efforts. Disagreeing and arguing is normal, and such conflicts can be a learning opportunity, particularly for children. Learning how to deal effectively with conflict, to discuss differences and problem-solve are skills that need to be learned and carried on into adulthood. It is okay for parents to acknowledge a child's feelings of anger, but the misbehavior or name-calling that accompanies that anger should not be acceptable. When those involved have been allowed time to cool off and calm down, parents need to work with the children in talking over the problem together. Apologies as needed should be expected, and an agreement as to the resulting consequences if this type of behavior occurs again. It also helps to have the children go back through the conflict and behaviors again, and "practice" more appropriate responses. Many times, one of the parties involved will feel they have been treated unfairly, or will have a difficult time understanding the other's point of view, resulting in a verbal continuation of the conflict. This is when "agreeing to disagree" is necessary. Nobody is right, and nobody is wrong; each just has a different point of view. With time, maturity and experience, that view may change. But for the current time frame, this type of compromise may be the best solution.
As stated above, "agreeing to disagree" is also an important skill for adults. Relationships are 50-50, with the ability to compromise, reason, see the other's point of view, and act appropriately as key components of a successful relationship. And learning those at a young age helps insure better communication when dealing with conflict as adults.
-Contributed by Karen Beery, LCPC
Consultation and Education Department, High Plains Mental Health Center, Hays, KS
Mail questions to: Plain Sense, Consultation and Education Department, High Plains Mental Health Center, 208 East 7th, Hays, KS 67601. Website: www.highplainsmentalhealth.com