The Value of Conflict
“What’s going on?”
“He pushed me”
“Did you push him?”
And so it begins.
Being a parent often requires quick responses as you try to referee children. Kids, regardless of age, will have conflict. They must. It’s the nature of depravity.
As children grow and conflicts arise between siblings, and sometimes between parents, it is here they begin to develop the skills by which to handle conflict, accusations, hurts, betrayals, and more.
After such altercations, it’s up to the parents to set an example of justice, mercy, and forgiveness. In our home, it begins with questions. What did he do to you? What did you do to him? What should we do about this?
Getting kids to acknowledge where they have been offended allows both clarity and context of the situation. It helps kids learn a vital skill in processing emotions and feelings. But more importantly, it’s an opportunity for mom to validate and show understanding. This crucial step conveys value and worth to the one hurting.
When I skip this validation step, in a hurry to just keep the peace, I complicate things more by leading the hurting child to anger and resentment, not feeling valued. I also miss out on the opportunity to help her grow and mature.
I often wonder if the the cultural norm we have come to expect of teenagers to rebel and have conflict with parents stems from an improper response to childhood conflict. But that’s another article altogether.
Next, our children are presented with questions that help them begin to process their part in the situation. Understanding their role in the conflict helps balance out the anger and desire for swift justice. It is also the next step in maturity.
It is rare that any conflict is 100 percent one sided, and helping children acknowledge their part will be an invaluable asset as they grow into adulthood. Enabling a victim mentality prevents our children from becoming responsible, reasonable, and rational.
It’s becoming a rarity to see adults who can acknowledge their part in a situation where they were offended. But those who do seem to be have the emotional and spiritual maturity that emulates Christ.
Finally, we ask both kids what should be done about this situation. Once they feel the support of being understood and have acknowledged their part, the answer to this question is not based on the heat of the moment and a flood of emotions. Instead, a context has been set, and typically a reasonable solution is offered. When the kids were young, I would offer solutions as examples, giving them a frame of reference for reasonable responses. As they grew, they began to offer the solutions of merciful justice.
Does this always work and does it lessen the conflict between siblings? Not always, but by God’s grace, it generally works. Sometimes the results are within a few minutes and other times it might be a few days before things are resolved.
My objective as a parent is not a speedy trial. It’s a child who has been given an environment to grow and mature, and that takes time.