We're navigating some tricky friendship waters around our house these days. My younger daughter is having trouble getting along with one of my older daughters good friends. These girls spend a lot of time together, so it's important that they get along.
We've been letting the girls try to work things out themselves, but the results have been less than desirable. I've talked to my younger daughter about it numerous times. I've given her strategies for dealing with the situation. I've encouraged my older daughter to try to help both her friend and her sister to get along. None of that seems to be working.
We finally came to the conclusion that nothing is working because our daughters don't know how to resolve conflict. They don't have the tools in their toolbox to fix the problem. While we work on problem-solving and resolving conflict, we've never taught them how to sit down and constructively talk about how to solve the problem.
Our kids aren't born with the ability to resolve conflict. They're born selfish. We all are. Our first instinct is to protect our own interests. Our fall-back position is to look out for ourselves. We have to be taught to put others first. It's a constant struggle to put aside our selfishness and view others' interests as more important than our own. Proverbs 18:1 says, "An unfriendly person pursues selfish ends and against all sound judgment starts quarrels." We want our kids to be good friends and to have sound judgment, which is why teaching them to solve conflict is so important.
Sometime soon, we're going to sit my daughter and this friend down to talk together. We're going to teach them how to respectfully and calmly resolve conflict. We're going to mediate their dispute so that they can see each other's point of view. When we do that, here are the things we'll be hoping to teach them:
1. Use "I feel" statements, not "you" statements. Starting a sentence with "I feel," puts all the focus on your own feelings and not on the other person's actions. It's less accusatory and simply a statement of fact. It doesn't put the other person on the defensive right off the bat.
2. Everyone gets a chance to talk uninterrupted. The only way to get all the cards on the table is for everyone to get a chance to explain their position, their feelings and their ideas.
3. The other person is going to have some valid points. It's a rare conflict where only one person is in the wrong. Usually, especially when it comes to kids, both have contributed to the problem.
4. The solution isn't going to be perfect. The key to conflict resolution is compromise. Kids need to understand that compromise means that everyone has to give up something. No compromise is going to result in them getting everything they want.
5. Prayer is powerful. Whenever conflict arises, one good way to get it to end is to stop what you're doing and pray. God wants to give you the answers. Even if it's a conflict on the playground, taking just a second to pray before you open your mouth can make all the difference in the world.
The world is full of conflict so our kids need to learn to solve it. If we help them by showing them appropriate ways to deal with conflict now, we're helping them live more peaceful lives as an adult.