Welcome to the series No More “Nice” Kids. This week, we’re looking at why raising “nice” kids isn’t the same as raising kids who have Godly character. If you missed the beginning of this series, you can find it here.
Like any tween girls, my daughters find themselves in the middle of their fair share of conflict. Sometimes it's avoidable. Sometimes it's not.
As my girls get older, I find myself watching how they deal with conflict. I have one daughter who never backs away from a fight, and I have another one who never wants to get into a fight. No matter our kids' personalities, though, we need to teach them to deal with conflict in relationships.
Somewhere along the line, our society has decided that nice people don't engage in conflict. We choose to ignore things that lead to conflict, letting them fester until our anger comes out in inappropriate ways like gossip or frustration. How many times have you been angry with someone and taken that anger out on someone else?
When we stop trying to raise our kids to be "nice" and instead start raising them to be filled with Godly character, we realize that conflict isn't necessarily a bad thing.
Believe it or not, conflict is inevitable. Unfortunately, many of us have bought into the myth that "nice" people don't engage in conflict. We've decided that Christ-followers should never get angry, never have a disagreement, and never experience conflict in their relationships. And then we teach that to our kids.
The truth is that the Bible never tells us that conflict is bad. It does tell us to do our best to live a life that's at peace with everyone. It tells us not to sin when we are angry. It tells us to love even our enemies. But it does not tell us to never engage in conflict.
1 Peter 3:15 says, "Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect,keeping a clear conscience, so that those who speak maliciously against your good behavior in Christ may be ashamed of their slander." If we are to be prepared to give others an answer about our faith, then we also need to be prepared for those people to disagree with us. Peter tells us that we need to stand up for our faith, but we need to do it with gentleness and respect for others.
And gentleness and respect are the keys to handling conflict. Our kids are going to get into conflicts with others, and instead of teaching them to simply walk away (although there are times when that's the best option), we need to be teaching them how to appropriately deal with conflict in a relationship.
I believe there is no greater killer of childhood relationships than the inability to confront conflict head-on. Little slights and hurts become big ones because we don't teach our kids how to deal with conflict in their relationships.
If we want to raise children who are full of Christ-like character, then we have to begin teaching them to deal with conflict the same way Jesus did.
1. Teach your kids that conflict isn't something to fear. Jesus never stepped back from someone confronting Him. He treated everyone with gentleness and respect, but He was always prepared to deal with someone who disagreed with Him. Help your kids understand that conflict is inevitable in nearly every relationship. God didn't make all of us the same, so our personalities will clash at times, and that's OK. Working through a conflict can be an opportunity to strengthen a relationship rather than destroy it. In working through conflict, we often get the opportunity to learn something new about an issue or about the other person.
2. Conflict can be resolved. Most conflicts, especially in childhood relationships can be resolved by simply addressing them. When two people sit down and talk things out, it's amazing how inconsequential the conflict sometimes becomes. We begin to understand our own failures in the matter and can more clearly see the other person's point of view.
3. Teach your kids to keep short accounts. Don't let conflict fester. Teach your kids to resolve conflict as quickly as they can. The longer a conflict exists, the more time we have to feed it and the harder it becomes to resolve.
4. Resolving conflict takes the right tools. We need to give our kids the tools to resolve conflict. These tools include using "I feel" statements instead of "you did" statements. They include letting everyone have a chance to state their case and learning the art of compromise. Most conflicts can be resolved if we choose to spend the time and have the right attitude to mend the relationship.
5. There are times to agree to disagree. Our kids can hold their position without losing the friendship. When kids really are at a loggerhead, it's OK for them to simply agree to disagree. As long as they can hold their positions without holding a grudge or being disrespectful, it's OK for them to have a different viewpoint from someone else.
6. Sometimes it is best to walk away. Though they are rarer than we like to think, there are times when it's best to walk away. When conflict escalates to an irrational argument or physical violence, it's time to walk away and get help from adult.
Conflict doesn't have to be scary, and it doesn't have to end relationships. Instead, it can be a healthy part of our kids' relationships with others. When we stop focusing on raising our kids to be "nice" all the time and start focusing on raising them to navigate this crazy world with their eyes on God and what He wants us to do, then they can fulfill the plans that God has for them.