Conflict in the Elementary Years
By now you know your child pretty well and although they do go through changes during these years, they will seem somewhat small when compared to the teen years. So this is a great time to continue to provide consistency, especially as far as attitudes go. Don’t let your kids mumble under their breath, talk back, be disrespectful, slam doors, throw things, be dishonest, treat others poorly, etc. Here are some other important things to keep in mind:
Don’t let the sun go down on your anger (Ephesians 4:26). We try to live by this (albeit imperfectly) at our house. God’s plan is good: to try and resolve conflict or at least eliminate anger before heading to bed at night. We try to have our kids do this with each other, sometimes using dinnertime around the table or just before bed, to ask, “Does anyone have anything they need to make right with anyone else?” Sometimes the kids would rather do this privately and that’s totally understandable, but just bringing up the subject on a consistent basis, teaches all of us to be aware of our offenses and unforgiveness and clear the air. This makes the following day’s dealings better as well by trying not to carry those things into the next day.
Hit the “pause” button: One of the hardest things to deal with is when your child has managed to rack up multiple offenses in a short amount of time or you have several kids who have offended even a couple of times each. Believe me, it happens fast and when you have several kids, it feels like warp speed! I will often get overwhelmed when this happens and have learned that the best thing to do is to hit the “pause” button or have everyone involved take some time away from each other, alone, to think and pray about what just happened. This usually brings clarity and keeps emotions from racheting up even more than they already have and more offenses from happening. (James 1:19, Prov. 14:29, 16:32, 15:1, 15:18)
Take responsibility : Encourage your kids from a very young age to be completely transparent about their part in conflict. It’s an amazingly rare and quality characteristic. It looks so different than worldly and fleshly responses. It means telling the WHOLE story when relaying incidents to dad or mom. Not leaving important details out that change the “look” of what really happened. I tell our kids that they cannot expect me to be a fair judge if I don’t have ALL the facts and it’s their job to give those to me. Sometimes our kids will start their part of the story like this: “He was being such a jerk!” I stop them right there and tell them that that is a character slam. It does NOT tell me what happened.
When it’s time to “make things right”, we really encourage our kids to name their offense when they apologize. An example might be: “I’m sorry I was selfish and took that toy away from you.” I remember when two of our kids were in conflict very often. One of them told me that he wasn’t sure if the other one really even understood what she did that was so hurtful because she never said it out loud. That’s when we realized how important it is that the offender understand and name his/her offense. It’s training with more accuracy and it clarifies what others find offensive.
That also means we have to be willing to take responsibility for our part in conflicts as well. That is not always easy, but it’s important to set the example, while still maintaining our kids’ respect by requiring it from them too. God’s roles in the family need to be kept and respected. In other words…Dad and mom are the parents and have the final say. Period. We consider what our kids have to say when it’s appropriate to do so. We don’t take our authority lightly or exasperate our kids with it, but we also don’t allow them to overrule God’s plan for family, which puts parents in charge. And also accountable to God.
Too many chiefs and not enough Indians: If you have more than one child you know that they will often try to ‘be the parent’ to the other children at some point or another. At our house, this is how we handle it: If we are present, WE get to be the parents. We will tell our kids, “Let US be the parents”. Children will come to resent having the other children point out their shortcomings and that will make it harder for them as adults to hear even constructive criticism. That’s not baggage we want our kids to take into adulthood.
However, we DO want our kids to learn how to listen when others are telling them something that they are doing that they KNOW is wrong. For instance, we have a full basement. All five of our boys’ rooms are down there. So there are times that we are not “present”. Also, sometimes we are away from the house. Sam starts playing video games. Luke reminds Sam that he is NOT supposed to play without permission. Sam either brushes him off or makes some snide comment about how Luke is not the boss. Now Sam KNOWS he’s not supposed to be doing this. A “brother” comes alongside him and reminds him of what is right and wrong. Now spring forward to life in the Body of Christ. Sam gets caught doing something immoral or clearly sinful and a brother in the Lord comes alongside him and points it out. Sam is responsible to respond to that with humility and repentance and it starts back at home with the video game scenario. Do you get what I’m saying here? We are teaching our kids how to function in a healthy way as part of God’s family while growing up in OUR family.
Another aspect to that scene is this: When Luke points out Sam’s offense, he does so with an attitude of superiority or condemnation. That’s when things get dicey. Sam STILL has a responsibility to respond with repentance. NO MATTER HOW THE MESSAGE IS DELIVERED. That’s HIS part. Luke made it much harder for his brother to do the right thing. God says in His Word that we are to “spur one another on to love and good works.” He wasn’t acting in love. Luke needs to be repentant of the way that he delivered the message. To treat his brother the way he would want to be treated in that same situation if the roles were reversed, therefore “spurring” his brother on to love and good works. (Hebrews 10:24)
So in all this conflict, we are teaching our kids MUCH about real life and about our need for a Savior. We are also showing them how to function well within the Body of Christ. It’s certainly time well spent and and investment worth making.
If you would like more information and specifics on Peacemaking, here are some great resources.
Young Peacemaker– This book set includes a manual for parents(or teachers) and books with illustrations for kids that can be copied. If your family really wants to do more in depth study on peacemaking with good examples to learn from, this is your tool.
War of Words by Paul David Tripp- This book shows the importance of how we use our words, especially within the family setting. Fair warning: this book is very convicting.