No matter how hard we may want to, there is no way to keep our kids from dealing with conflict.
It is going to start when they are 2-years-old and someone takes the toy they were playing with.
And it’s going to continue for…well.. forever.
Sorry. It’s just how life works.
There are a few basic principles in dealing with conflict that I think will benefit your kids greatly.
It will actually benefit you greatly in your relationships as well!
1. Always be quick to listen, but slow to speak, and slow to be come angry.
This is hard. I get it. Trust me. I have a major tendency to be quick to speak. It is so important that we teach our kids to be slow to speak and slow to become angry. Don’t let them make any rash decisions that will affect friendships long term. Teach them to listen carefully before they speak. Teach them to really think things all the way through before they make any decisions.
2. Never answer a matter before hearing both sides.
This principle starts with you, mom. This right here, peeps. I gotta tell you… This principle is almost never followed by the people that I deal with on a daily basis.
It seems so obvious to me, but it does not happen enough.
This can start as early as a 2-year-old crying to you because her brother hit her! Don’t even think about correcting her brother until you have heard both sides!
It’s quite possible she bit him first! Ha!
As they get older, the same principle applies. If they come home from school complaining about the way another kid or an adult treats them? Don’t be so quick to make a judgment based on hearing their side alone. It is never, never a good idea. Teach them by example that you are going to hear both sides of a story, and you are going to get all the facts.
And before they start making a judgment call on a situation about other people, they need to do the same. There are always two sides to the story. Teach them to be wise and hear both sides before making a call.
3. Do go to the person who has offended you.
Here is the most simple, effective tool you can teach your child. Did someone hurt their feelings? They need to go the person and try to make it right. Period.
I remember my mom teaching me this when I was 11. I was positive, a woman from my church did not like me. I told my mom this, and she said I had to do something about it. I had to go, as a child, and ask her if I had done anything to offend her! Can you even imagine?! I did the same thing when I was 13. I was junior counsellor at a girls week, and the senior counsellor was undermining any authority I had in front of all our little campers. I had to go to her by myself and tell her that it bothered me.
In both instances, we worked it out! It’s amazing what a simple little thing like this can do.
If your child has been offended by someone. They need to go to the person who has offended them and ask to make it right. Boom. Done. I don’t understand why this is not done more. It’s so obvious and so simple. You can then move on with life and not have to worry about it. I can not tell you enough how much this has helped me in my life. Teach it to your kids when they are young, so it becomes their first thought when they are older.
4. Don’t go to everyone else to talk about the person who has offended you.
This might seem obvious, but this kind of goes back to #1. Teach your child to be slow to speak. They need to just let things cool off, and not be in danger of ruining someone’s reputation by talking bad about them. This also becomes your child’s reputation if it goes on! You want your child to be trustworthy. Teach them that this is one way they can maintain that kind of good reputation.
If your child has gone through all these steps, and still is not having the conflict resolved, it’s important to do step 5.
5. Always seek a large number of trusted counsellors.
It is true that in the multitude of counsellors is safety. God is good, and prayer is important. But that is not what the Bible is talking about when it teaches this principle. Your children need to know that it is dangerous to start making decisions based on what looks right in their own eyes, but is not right in the eyes of God. It is important that they know who they can trust (a pastor, youth group leader, aunt or uncle, wise friends) and that they can ask advice without gossiping about a situation. It is always safer to have advice from wise people you can trust.
6. Never allow people who have hurt you to affect future friendships.
People hurt people. It happens. I just had to have this conversation with one of my boys this week. Just because some people are not being good friends to you, it doesn’t mean that all friends are going to be that way. We have got to teach our kids not to become cynical and believe that the next friend will hurt them too. It just isn’t true. It is possible, yes. But it is not necessarily true.
And ya know what? It’s worth the risk. I have had so many people I thought were my true friends, turn their backs on me. But ya know what else? I have had many who have not. And if I had let myself believe that no one can be trusted and everyone is going to hurt me, I would have missed out on some pretty incredible friendships.
Hurt is a normal part of life, and it’s important that we are honest with our kids and let them know that. But it’s also important that we teach them the steps they need to take to handle the situations on their own.
Try not to get in the habit of feeling like you need to fight all your kids battles! We have enough of our own to fight! We are training them. Training them to go out and live life on their own. Teaching them how to deal with conflict as children is not only going to benefit them now, but it will benefit them when they are older and dealing with a boss, with a friend, with a spouse, or even with you!
Teaching your kids how to deal with conflict is not actually all that hard!
You will be so glad you did!