Janet Sheridan: Perfecting family fights | CraigDailyPress.com

Janet Sheridan: Perfecting family fights

Janet Sheridan

Janet Sheridan

When I skimmed a February 2013 feature in Parade Magazine, I recognized column material: The article consisted of a quiz on research-based techniques for reducing family fights from Bob Feiler's book, “The Secrets of Happy Families.”

In my experience, fights are as common to family life as runny noses are to kindergartners, so I summarized the article's questions and answers below, then added the commentary.

Question 1:Question 1: How many times per hour do siblings fight? Answer: three to four times. How many times per hour do siblings fight? Answer: three to four times.

Question 1: How many times per hour do siblings fight? Answer: three to four times.

I immediately wondered how the researchers defined a fight: Did raised voices qualify, or did screaming and scratching have to occur? Did tattling and teasing count? Or did they record only vigorous thumpings?

My niece and I were chatting at a family reunion when her young daughter approached, spouting tears and lamentations, "Mom, we were playing soccer, and Tommy tripped me, then stepped on me, then kicked me. On purpose. He hurt me so bad."

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Her mom replied, "Are you bleeding? Do you need to go to the hospital? No? Then go play. I'm talking to my aunt." Had my niece tallied sibling spats for the researchers, there wouldn't have been any.

Question 2:Question 2: Difficult conversations among family members will go better if you have more coffee breaks, moderators, women, or bottles of wine? Answer: women. Researchers analyzed nearly 700 people working in groups and found groups with a majority of women were more efficient, more likely to get input from everyone and reached consensus more often. Difficult conversations among family members will go better if you have more coffee breaks, moderators, women, or bottles of wine? Answer: women. Researchers analyzed nearly 700 people working in groups and found groups with a majority of women were more efficient, more likely to get input from everyone and reached consensus more often.

Question 2: Difficult conversations among family members will go better if you have more coffee breaks, moderators, women, or bottles of wine? Answer: women. Researchers analyzed nearly 700 people working in groups and found groups with a majority of women were more efficient, more likely to get input from everyone and reached consensus more often.

Again, I had doubts. The family on the TV show "My Three Sons" functioned well without women. Week after week, the three sons, their dad and their Grandpa Bub faced family-fight scenarios, yet they achieved loving harmony in 30 minutes. Every week. Fred McMurray never once had to borrow neighborhood females to help his family reach consensus.

Question 3:Question 3: At family meetings, is it better to vote on a matter before you discuss it or after? Answer: both. When every participant doesn’t give their opinion on an issue before discussing it, the people who volunteer to speak during discussion — who tend to be long-winded and forceful — persuade others to go along with them, even when they’re wrong. At family meetings, is it better to vote on a matter before you discuss it or after? Answer: both. When every participant doesn't give their opinion on an issue before discussing it, the people who volunteer to speak during discussion — who tend to be long-winded and forceful — persuade others to go along with them, even when they're wrong.

Question 3: At family meetings, is it better to vote on a matter before you discuss it or after? Answer: both. When every participant doesn't give their opinion on an issue before discussing it, the people who volunteer to speak during discussion — who tend to be long-winded and forceful — persuade others to go along with them, even when they're wrong.

This vote-first idea might work with organizations, but I'm not so sure about families. In my experience, older siblings support the decision they think their parents want; middle children choose the option that creates the least conflict; and younger siblings vote with the older sibling most likely to corner them and inflict injuring if they don't.

Question 4:Question 4: Most family fights occur in the morning, at dinnertime, or on weekends? Answer: Dinnertime. Psychologists studied family interactions and found the most stressful time was from 6 to 8 p.m., when parents were returning from work and everybody was hungry. Most family fights occur in the morning, at dinnertime, or on weekends? Answer: Dinnertime. Psychologists studied family interactions and found the most stressful time was from 6 to 8 p.m., when parents were returning from work and everybody was hungry.

Question 4: Most family fights occur in the morning, at dinnertime, or on weekends? Answer: Dinnertime. Psychologists studied family interactions and found the most stressful time was from 6 to 8 p.m., when parents were returning from work and everybody was hungry.

I believe this answer and predict the fights stop when dinner starts: Food is a universal pacifier — unless it's liver and onions.

Question 5:Question 5: The worst word you can say in a fight with a spouse is we, you, your mother or me. Answer: you. Studies reveal when married couples say “you” during a fight, it projects an accusatory tone that increases stress. The worst word you can say in a fight with a spouse is we, you, your mother or me. Answer: you. Studies reveal when married couples say "you" during a fight, it projects an accusatory tone that increases stress.

Question 5: The worst word you can say in a fight with a spouse is we, you, your mother or me. Answer: you. Studies reveal when married couples say "you" during a fight, it projects an accusatory tone that increases stress.

Examples occurred to me instantly: You never admit I'm right. In restaurants, you suggest we split a dessert, then eat all of it. What makes you think I don't know anything about rocket science?

I would urge couples to avoid private trigger words as well. For Joel and me, I would suggest “minute” as in "This will only take a minute," “help” as in "Could you help me move the refrigerator to the basement," and “remodel” used in any context whatsoever.

Five researched suggestions that promise to promote family accord. Could anything be easier?

Sheridan's book, "A Seasoned Life Lived in Small Towns," is available in Craig at Downtown Books and Steamboat Springs at Off the Beaten Path Bookstore. She also blogs at http://www.auntbeulah.com on Tuesdays.Sheridan’s book, “A Seasoned Life Lived in Small Towns,” is available in Craig at Downtown Books and Steamboat Springs at Off the Beaten Path Bookstore. She also blogs at http://www.auntbeulah.com on Tuesdays.Sheridan's book, "A Seasoned Life Lived in Small Towns," is available in Craig at Downtown Books and Steamboat Springs at Off the Beaten Path Bookstore. She also blogs at http://www.auntbeulah.com on Tuesdays.

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