by Mark Gregston
How do you handle conflict? Do you get defensive easily? Are you a bully about it? Or, perhaps you’re more of the silent treatment type when you’re hurt or upset? The reality is that none of us will ever be completely comfortable having to deal with the disagreements that arise in our lives, but conflict is the precursor to change, and it’s vitally important for moving us forward.
Very few people actually enjoy conflict—and those who do, are often employed as conflict negotiators. They are a special breed of people who run head long into conflict while the majority of us simply walk away. But, when we do not deal with conflict right away—in the right way, these disagreements and issues that we find ourselves in, tend to fester and they only cause more pain down the road.
Conflict is not our enemy, but it is the catalyst that helps us grow and mature, and conflict resolution is what deepens our relationships with one another. Proverbs 27:6 puts it this way: Better are the wounds of a friend, than the deceitful kisses of an enemy. And if you’d like to learn some new ways to resolve the conflicts in your life, keep reading!
A New Way of Thinking and Doing
If you’re longing for understanding, wisdom, and change in your relationship with your teen, but the two of you are often locked in a battle of wills, as the parent, it’s important for you to stop what you’re doing. Right now, because it’s obvious that it’s not working.
If you don’t like something that’s on television, you don’t sit through it, hoping it will resolve on its own, you change the channel and find something else to watch. The same is true with conflict resolution. You can’t simply keep doing the same thing you’ve always been doing and hope that something new will happen. In order to effect change, you have to take action. So, here are some of the new things you can start doing right now.
1. Give it a rest. Oftentimes, how you approach a situation is everything. If you try to handle the conflict in the heat of the moment, or when you or your child is at the peak of their frustration, your attempts at resolving the conflicts will not be productive. It’s best to wait 24-hours before you attempt a conversation.
2. Commit to getting to a better place in your relationship. You are not enemies with your child, so it’s important to let them know that you’re on their team and you want to have as best a relationship with them as possible. This is not about winning. You can win the battle with your teen, but lose the war—and that ultimately means, losing a relationship with your child.
3. Engage with your teen. Shutting down does not serve anyone, including yourself. When you as the parent give your child the silent treatment, you risk using your relationship to get what you want. That’s called manipulation, and it doesn’t make anyone feel good. Instead of going radio silent, move toward your teen and engage them in conversation.
4. Take a break. When things get heated, it’s okay to call a time-out. There are going to be times that you’re talking about your values, your heart for your family, and your hopes for the future, so it’s bound to get complicated when your teen doesn’t agree with you. If you find that things are getting heated, take a break and reschedule the conversation. You’ll be glad that you did!
A Few Things to Consider
Rome wasn’t built in a day, and learning how to resolve conflict won’t happen immediately, either. But each day is another opportunity to tell the ones you love that you’re there for them and you’re willing to try. To do that, you need to get to the heart of the issue. So, mom and dad, be sure you’re actually listening to your kids—not just preparing to make your next point to win the debate. Know when to raise your voice, and when to speak softly. Learn to admit you’re wrong—that’s a tough one for many people—especially us dads, and then try to see conflict as God placing a spotlight on an area that needs some work in your relationship. And if you’re feeling overwhelmed and frustrated, be sure to seek out a support system. Everything is better when you have a friend to walk alongside you and help guide you in the ways that God would have you go.
Mom, Dad … sometimes the kid who needs the most love will ask for it in the most unloving ways. It’s those unloving actions that usually result in creating conflict in your home, so be sure to get to the root of the issue. Don’t just focus on the behavior which is the visible expression of the invisible issues that are going on inside your child. When you begin to understand what’s really going on, you’ll find that you’ll be able to resolve the conflicts in your home by speaking to the heart of the issue. This will also cause your child to deescalate when they see that you’re pursuing their heart and not just trying to stop an unwanted behavior. Resolving conflict is never easy, but it’s better when your teen realizes that you’re not fighting with them, but for them.