(The video version of this post is at the bottom, if you’d rather listen!)
In the last video I talked about what it looks like to nurture sibling relationships and I ended that talk giving you a heads up that more often than not those nurturing moments will turn into fighting or conflict! But the really awesome thing is that conflict is a springboard that can help us teach our kids so many life skills! AND if you have tools in your toolbox, ready to deal with it, God can take what the enemy means for evil and use it for good! So be brave and read on!
A few things to remember when our kids get into conflict:
1.) Don’t be too quick to jump in and solve the problem. Let your kids try to work it out first because it gives them ownership of the situation AND requires them to work at it FIRST.
2.) Listen and be aware of where the conflict is going. If it is clearly NOT productive (but again don’t be too quick to jump in), it may be time to step in. Is the conflict just going around in circles? Is it becoming deeply hurtful? Are emotions escalating too high? It’s important to remember that God says, “Life and death are in the power of the tongue.” (Proverbs 18:21) Words are powerful. Insist that your kids keep a certain level of respect in their communication.
Our kids (and we) learn so much about their own hearts and other’s through conflict: what sets them (or others) off, being aware of each other’s strengths and weaknesses, etc. We want to encourage them to learn to respect other’s strengths and bear in love with other’s weaknesses, because we ALL have them.
Be sure that you are setting an example in your own relationships because our kids will absorb more of what you DO than what you tell them. Think through your current relationships and whether or not you are setting a godly example. Sometimes that means overlooking offenses and other times it means setting boundaries. Both are imperative for healthy relationships.
Again, our kids learn SO much from conflict…communication, negotiation, empathy, etc. It’s important to seize the opportunity that conflict gives us!
Sometimes we get a little weary of being the heavy hand, but one thing we need to remind ourselves of (and our kids), is that God has a lot to say about healthy relationships and that’s our standard. We (the parents) didn’t set the boundaries…they were set by our Creator who loves us, knows us inside and out, and KNOWS what is best for us!
When we do step into these conflicts it’s important to ask a lot of questions…ones like, “Are you treating him the way you want to be treated? (this is teaching empathy…how to put themselves in someone else’s shoes and feel what they feel) This is the standard that God has for us in Matthew 7:12 (it’s also known as The Golden Rule).
We want to help our kids learn the importance of seeking to understand before being understood. That means that they have to LISTEN to the other person. This is where we have practiced what’s called Drive Thru Talking. It’s where one child has the chance to express in his own words his frustration or explanation to the other. Then the other has to repeat back to him what he said and vice versa. Almost EVERY single time we have done this with our kids, we found that they were totally NOT hearing each other.
If you are doing Drive Thru Talking and you find it’s STILL not going well, that is a great time to HIT THE PAUSE BUTTON. It’s amazing what some time apart will do. It teaches our kids that relationships are work and often there is no instant gratification. Take a break, have them (and you) think and pray about the situation and then come back together to work on more Drive Thru Talking and working toward resolution which includes any apologies.
God tells in Ephesians 4:26: And “don’t sin by letting anger control you.” Don’t let the sun go down while you are still angry, If at all possible make it a rule in your family not to go to bed angry..
Sometimes you will have child who is “overly sensitive”. It’s important that that child learns to accept correction without being easily offended (I Corin 13 says that part of truly loving others is NOT being easily offended) and it’s good for the child who is trying to point something out to the sensitive one to learn to do it in love. God says we are to speak the truth in love…that means our motivation is wanting what is best for the other person, even if it is a hard thing to talk about. Our heart is to encourage, not discourage. Again, we set this example in our own relationships..our marriages, friendships, etc.
Lastly, remember that NO parent ever does it all right, but after many years of parenting, I can say that His GRACE covers so much! I often would remember how the boy brought the few loaves and fishes to Jesus and he MADE IT ENOUGH. He will do no less for us as we press in to honor him in our family life!