How Do I Deal with Conflict?

Tough Question

If you have kids, it's inevitable that you will spend part of your time as a parent moderating disagreements. If you have more than one child, this starts almost as soon as the second one comes along.

Our kids will experience disagreements with siblings, friends and even us over the course of their lives, so it's important that they know how to deal with it. Too often, we don't teach our kids how to handle their own conflicts: We either step in and solve it for them or everyone just stays mad at each other for a while. Neither one of those reactions teaches our kids how to mediate their own conflicts.

My older daughter and her best friend recently had an issue that resulted in some hurt feelings. The truth was that neither of them set out to hurt the other one's feelings. It just happened that way. There was a lot of being insensitive to the other person's needs going on on the part of both girls.

I really struggled to know what to do. I wanted to let them work it out themselves, but what I saw happening was that neither of them wanted to approach the issue. I saw two young ladies who had been friends since birth starting to take that friendship for granted and hurt one another without even realizing it. I also realized that they really had no idea how to start the conversation about how to resolve the issues.

So, I stepped in. However, I didn't solve their problem. I simply started the conversation for them. We sat at the kitchen table and set some ground rules.

1. Talk about how you feel. Use "I feel" statements, not "you did" statements.

2. No attacking the other person.

3. Everyone gets a turn to talk.

Then, I let them loose. I stayed in the room and helped guide the conversation, but the girls talked it out. They both realized that they needed to do things a little bit differently to protect their friendship and parted with smiles on their faces.

Was the conversation awkward for them? Absolutely. Was it hard? You betcha. Was it necessary to the survival of their friendship? Yes.

One of the best things we can do for our kids is to teach them to deal appropriately with conflict. Carrying a grudge or hauling around a bag of built-up hurt only destroys relationships. Proverbs 29:8 says "Mockers stir up a city, but the wise turn away anger." If we're wise, we'll teach our kids how to avoid carrying a grudge or fostering anger. We'll teach them to resolve their conflicts rather than "stir up a city."

It really is OK to be angry about something that has happened in a relationship. It's not OK to carry a grudge and stew in that anger. Teaching our kids to be wise and turn away anger, teaching them to resolve conflict in appropriate ways is one of the most important tools we can put in our kids' toolboxes. It will prevent broken relationships, anxiety and unnecessary conflict in their lives. Start giving your kids conflict-solving tools today.