Written by Dr. Steve Whitaker, Head of School
We avoid it. We don’t know how to handle it. We often discourage it because we don’t understand it. No, I’m not talking about the I-4 construction project. I’m talking about conflict with our children and the ways it can impact our family dynamics. Tricia and I have three children and, like you, we’ve had our share of conflicts in the process.
Recently, Haley Malone, Upper School Student Life Coordinator, shared valuable insight about how she helps many of the young women in Upper School through their daily emotional, social, and environmental conflicts. Because Haley practices many of the principles below on a daily basis, students respect and look up to her. During this busy time of year, when students and parents are tired and limits are stretched, I thought it was important to share some of Haley’s advice with you.
When considering your approach to resolving conflict between you and your children, here are a few key steps you can take to make these opportunities for growth for all parties involved.
1. Pray. Pray. And then Pray Some More.
It is so easy to let our emotions, frustrations, and outside events influence the way we speak to our children. This can ultimately affect the overall outcome and make it more difficult for future conversations. Be reminded that this conversation is rooted in love and a desire for both of you to walk away feeling encouraged and most importantly, heard.
Verse of Encouragement: “The aim of our charge is love that issues from a pure heart and a good conscience and a sincere faith.” – 1 Timothy 1:5
2. Begin with the End in Mind
Taking a page right out of Stephen Covey’s 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, ask yourself, “What do I hope to gain from this conversation? What do they hope to gain from this conversation? How do I want my child to feel as a result of this conversation?”
Verse of Encouragement: “The end of a matter is better than its beginning, and patience is better than pride.” – Ecclesiastes 7:8
3. Practice Biblical Principles
Evaluate your own attitudes, strengths, and weaknesses. Prayerfully seek God’s guidance in examining your own heart and getting to the root of why you feel the way you do. Most importantly, follow the Matthew 18 resolution process, sharing viewpoints honestly and in love.
Verse of Encouragement: “If your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault, between you and him alone. If he listens to you, you have gained your brother. But if he does not listen, take one or two others along with you, that every charge may be established by the evidence of two or three witnesses. If he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church. And if he refuses to listen even to the church, let him be to you as a Gentile and a tax collector. Truly, I say to you, whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven. Again I say to you, if two of you agree on earth about anything they ask, it will be done for them by my Father in heaven. For where two or three are gathered in my name, there am I among them.” – Matthew 18:15-20
4. Open and Positive Communication is Essential
Creating a space where your child feels welcome to share their heart and emotions is critical. You want your son or daughter to know that they are valued as a member of the family and that the communication between the two of you is a dialogue, not a monologue. In the book Shepherding a Child’s Heart, Tedd Tripp states that “The finest art of communication is not learning how to express your thoughts. It is learning how to draw out the thoughts of your child, not simply to have your child understand you.”
Verse of Encouragement: “Know this, my beloved brothers: let every person be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger” – James 1:19
5. If Needed, Take a Break
Sometimes things can escalate, and rather than risk feelings being hurt, it might be best to take a break and come back after everyone has cooled down. In keeping with Matthew 18, look to involve a mediator or someone to help with discussing the topic at hand.
Verse of Encouragement: “But if he does not listen, take one or two others along with you, that every charge may be established by the evidence of two or three witnesses.” – Matthew 18:16
Conflict isn’t easy, but it is part of our lives. The best way we can help our children address conflict is to model the type of behavior we desire. Take responsibility for the things we have done wrong and be honest with them about that. Vulnerability helps our children realize that they are not alone in making mistakes. We are all sinners and all in need of grace. Hopefully, the practices of conflict resolution they experience at home will translate to the classroom and life outside of TFA.
Shepherding a Child’s Heart, Revised and Updated by Tedd Tripp
Resolving Conflict; How to Make, Disturb, and Keep Peace by Lou Priolo