Helping Children Resolve Conflict

None of us are comfortable with conflict and confrontation, although it’s a part of our daily lives.  There can be conflict between spouses, siblings, employees…everyone.  Even though we try to avoid confrontation, we still find ourselves facing conflict.  The Bible tells us why there is conflict.

What causes fights and quarrels among you? Don’t they come from your desires that battle within you? (James 4:1)

As humans, we selfishly want our own way.  Knowing this weakness, we must be careful how we respond to others when there is disagreement.  We can stengthen a relationship or break it.

Conflict today has taken on a disturbing trend.  It is no longer name-calling, harsh words or black eyes.  Now, there are school shootings, brutal beatings, drive-by shootings and  Facebook bullying.  There are many indications in our society that we are a culture in conflict.  Unfortunately, it is not uncommon for innocent children and adults to be randomly attacked by others.  We are exposed to hatred, prejudice, and violence and we see increasing evidence that there is little regard for human life or the rights and properties of others.

There are many role models in your child’s life, but you are the most powerful role model.  Your child will follow your example in attitude and behavior.  The way you treat each other, talk to others outside the family, and the way you handle conflict and anger, greatly affects how your child will handle relationships and disagreements throughout his/her lifetime.  Your child learns values and beliefs from you and these are shaped in childhood through your instruction and the way you live your life.

Identify and list some of your values and beliefs.  Share these with your child.

As a parent, it is important to:

  • Model responsible behaviors and attitudes daily.
  • Share your family’s values and beliefs consistently.
  • Practice positive conflict resolution skills.
  • Demonstrate respect for different beliefs and cultures.
  • Talk with your child about injustice, prejudice, and violence.

In prior generations, it was thought that parents should never have an argument or  conflict in front of their children.  However, we understand that it is beneficial for a child to see mild conflict between parents and observe the way they resolve the disagreement.  It’s important for your child to see that you can disagree and still love and respect one another.  Disagreements of a more serious nature can be discussed behind closed doors.

How did your childhood family resolve disagreements or conflict?

If there is a conflict or disagreement between you and another person:

  • Make sure the disagreement is worth fighting for.
  • Recognize that you can disagree and still respect each other.
  • Choose a calm time to discuss the issue and listen.
  • Stick to the issue.
  • Avoid the use of the words such as “You always” or “You never”.
  • Compromise, negotiate and work together.
  • Keep in mind that there should be no losers.
  • Be willing to forgive.
  • End the conversation with affection.

As you model the above responses to conflict, you are teaching your child how to handle disagreements with others in positive ways.

In our society, anger is generally present during conflict.  Anger is normal and can motivate us to do something good.  However, when it is expressed negatively in aggressive and violent ways, anger becomes harmful.  So, if you find yourself getting angry, try some techniques to help you calm down in a “highly-charged” situation.

DO

• Relax…take a walk, breathe

• Try to understand why you are angry

• Try to compromise and negotiate after you’ve calmed down

• Seek professional help when you and another person cannot resolve a disagreement

DO NOT

• Lose control

• Make accusations

• Avoid the issue

• Pout

• Get personal

• Get even

In spite of one’s efforts, some people insist on remaining angry.  Try to understand why the other person is angry.   Listen and encourage the other person to talk about the conflict and try to find a place of compromise.  Teach your child how to handle situations when someone is determined to stay angry.

Conflict is often promoted through media exposure.  Researchers are finding that violence in TV, movies, video games, toys, and music encourage conflict.   As a parent, it is your responsibility to monitor your child’s use of media. 

Consider these sobering facts:

  • U.S. children watch an average of 3-5 hours of TV per day. When they graduate from high school, they have watched 20,000 hours of TV as opposed to being in school 13,000 hours. (American Academy of Pediatrics)
  • The average child or teen has seen 10,000 murders, rapes, and aggravated assaults on TV each year. (American Psychological Association)
  • Children’s TV shows contain about 20 violent acts each hour. (Gerbner, University of PA)
  • American television and movies are the most violent in the world. (American Academy of Pediatrics)
  • Violence on TV is portrayed as funny and painless. (American Academy of Pediatrics)
  • Over 1,000 studies indicate that a large amount of time watching violence increases the likelihood of aggressive behaviors, particularly in males. (American Academy of Pediatrics)
  • Children tend to be less sensitive to the suffering of others, are fearful of the world, and choose violence to settle conflict.

(American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry)

Mental and physical violence in the home, as a result of conflict, has a negative impact on children.  Even if children are exposed to violent behavior one time, that experience can affect sleep patterns, behavior, and more.  Children who are traumatized with violence repeatedly are emotionally effected.  They may become fearful, hostile, or distrustful.  Children will likely mimic the same behavior that they see in their homes toward siblings and peers, as well as their future spouses and children.

The way we resolve conflict is shaped when we are very young.  Your child will be more skillful at resolving conflicts when you begin teaching him/her resolution skills early. Give suggestions to help your child resolve disagreements and immediately stop physical and verbal abuse.

Teach your child STOP! This reminder is good for parents, too!

S  Slow down and identify the problem

T  Talk and listen to each other

0  Be open to the other person’s point of view

P  Have a plan that is agreeable to both of you

Conflict is natural to humans and there are many signs of conflict in our society.  But, in spite of what happens in society, our families are to be a testimony of God’s love.

By teaching good values, based on God’s principles, and by helping your child develop good conflict resolution skills, you will create a loving environment in your home and prepare your child with the skills needed to be a strong person of influence within the society.

Try Something New

Practice STOP! during times of conflict in your own relationships.  Teach it to your child.

Verses for Encouragement

Seek peace.

God blesses those who work for peace, for they will be called the children of God.

(Matthew 5:9)

Do all that you can to live in peace with everyone.  (Romans 12:18)

Restore relationships.

Make allowance for each other’s faults, and forgive anyone who offends you. Remember, the Lord forgave you, so you must forgive others.  (Colossians 3:13)

Value others above yourself.

Be like-minded, have the same love, being one in spirit and of one mind. Don’t do anything out of selfish ambition or vain conceit.  Value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests, but the interests of others.  (Philippians 2:2-4)

Live a life pleasing to the Lord.

Whatever happens, conduct yourself in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ. (Philippians 1:27)