Getting on each other’s nerves? Try consensus

Now that you’re on top of each other 24/7 some friction may be developing. One way to achieve harmony is sharing responsibility and decision-making. The best decisions are those achieved through consensus rather than because Mom or Dad said so or through majority rule. The problem with majority rule is that whoever loses doesn’t have an incentive to buy into what everyone else has agreed to. In fact, the person who doesn’t get what they want may even attempt to sabotage the decision.   

Consensus decision-making builds trust and creates ownership and commitment.  It is inclusive, engages all participants, and can lead to better quality outcomes that empower the group. It’s an important skill for kids to develop. 

Can’t figure out what to have for dinner? What TV show to watch? Who’s going to walk the dog? Use a decision grid to create a framework for needed conversations that result in consensus.
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The decision grid clearly and transparently communicates who has authority to make a decision (D), who can veto a decision (V), who can make a proposal for a decision (P), and who can give input on a decision (I). It’s helpful for kids to know their role in consensus, but, of course, certain decisions will ultimately land with parents who may choose to use veto power.

Consensus can also solve issues between siblings who may be creating real-world learning projects together. If your kids are writing a book and can’t agree on the ending or producing a play and squabbling over who’s going to direct, use the decision grid to reach consensus. Here’s how:

Turn the problem into a question.
  • What do we want to accomplish?
  • What are the problems we are having?
  • What skills does each of us have to offer?

Discuss ways to resolve the conflict.
  • What are our options?
  • Why do you feel strongly about your option?
Develop a proposal.
  • Everyone should have the opportunity for input.

Choose the roles each participant will play in consensus.
  • Who will make a proposal?
  • Who will add input to the proposal?
  • Who will make the decision?
  • Who has veto power?
  • Who needs to be informed of the decision?

Vote and confirm the decision.
Reaching consensus can be a messy process, but a tool like the decision grid teaches kids the value of working together.