How do you solve problems where there is a conflict of interest?

“How do you go about solving a problem where there is a conflict of interest between parent and child?”

“What if my child wants to go to one park, but I want to visit a different park? If such a conflict of interest happened with a friend we might each go alone to our own preferred park. But that would not be realistic with my child, and she wants us to go together anyway, so we can’t both get our way. One of us has to concede. If I am not allowed to coerce my child to go to my preferred park, and I have to go to hers, am I not being coerced to go to hers?”

(See also this reply to the “not allowed” bit.)

The most important thing to understand here is that preferences are not fixed. Our wants can and do change.

Some people fear that finding real solutions is not possible in the real world. But it actually is possible. What makes it possible is the joint creativity of the parties involved applied to the specific problem. If one of the parties insists on holding their original theory unchanged, that theory is entrenched and the problem-solving process cannot be rational. There is no progress without change.

There are no irresolvable conflicts of interest in reality. Problems are soluble. (For a deeper understanding of this idea, read The Beginning of Infinity, by David Deutsch.)

If my child and I were to have a problem such as the one above, in which we have conflicting preferences about which park to visit, how might we go about solving that problem?

There is a reason my child wants to go to that park, while I want to go to this park. What is that reason? What is my reason for not wanting to go to that park and instead wanting to go to this one? What problem is each preference intended to solve? Can one or other problem be solved a different way, that would not be problematic for the other?

For example, my child might want to go to the particularly large and fun park 15 minutes’ drive away, because it has lots of interesting stuff in it. I might NOT want to go to that park, because it is already 8pm and that park is known for being dangerous at night, with muggings and murders, gang activity, and cars being broken into and stuff stolen. Only last week there was a whole piece about it in the local paper. The police are said to be advising people to vacate that park before sunset. So I do not feel safe going there, and I would rather go to the local small park that is safe. So we talk about it, and maybe we agree to go to the safe local park tonight, followed by a trip to the chip shop right next to the safe park, and we will go to the big park for the entire day on Saturday, taking a picnic with us and maybe inviting friends to join us to make it even more fun. Or maybe we go to the unsafe park tonight with our burly neighbour who is ex-military or an MMA fighter or something and is only too happy to go with us. Or we find several more families wanting to join us tonight, and we all go together. Safety in numbers!

Or maybe someone comes up with a totally different idea, like we drive to the beach for a moonlit walk along the beach, or we watch a film, or we play Murder In The Dark at home, or we bake a cake together, or have an adventure in our back garden sleeping under the stars. There will be a solution, and between us we can find one. That is, unless we parents just want to force an outcome – in which case what we will get is a fight and misery and disconnection; and then next time there is a problem, we will each be more likely to be defending our corners and trying to win at the other family members’ expense, leading to more stress and distress and unsolved problems, and more and more trying to win at the others’ expense, making life so unpleasant all round that we parents find ourselves wondering what ever possessed us to have children in the first place! (Have I mentioned that it is in our interests too, not just our children’s, to solve problems rather than resorting to coercion?!)

If looking at everyone’s reasons does not spark a solution, don’t get disheartened, experiment playfully! Who can come up with the craziest idea ever?! What outlandish ideas can you all come up with? What about your child’s toys? I’ll bet they have some interesting ideas! What does your child think her favourite fictional character would suggest? Try bringing optimism, fun, lightness, playfulness, humour, mad zany bizarre crazy out-of-the-box lateral thinking to bear. The more ideas the better. The more giggling the better. Sometimes an impossible crazy wacko idea that your child’s toy elephant comes up with sparks a perfectly possible perfectly doable idea that has everyone jumping for joy! Problems are soluble – especially when we all are in a good state of mind rather than upset with each other.

See also:

Sarah Fitz-Claridge, Taking Children Seriously FAQ: ‘How do you solve problems where there is a conflict of interest?’,

2 thoughts on “How do you solve problems where there is a conflict of interest?”

  1. All conflicts of interest originate from the conflict between ego attached selves. These conflicts between selves lead inexorably to coercion & as long as everyone remains attached to the idea of their ego/self, there will be conflict. If humanity detached from the notion of self, that would go far to rid the world of the violent rhetoric and coercion of modern western ego identified society. The self in need is the essence of ego driven violence. The real wisdom of the soul is freedom from ego. When the world wakes up to the scourge of the ego identification & self there will be no more coercion.

  2. This example makes sense. What I don’t understand is what if the child is too young to reason (i.e., a baby, toddler)? Or if the child is too young to be left home and you must run an errand within a certain timeframe (e.g., grocery shopping). I suppose you could cooperate with an older child to make the outing enjoyable for them too, but again with a toddler it doesn’t seem like you have much choice but to just take them with you. Of course you can set them up for success, but there will be times they’d rather not go to the store or leave the park, etc.


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