Q: How can I teach my children to resolve conflict?
Dennis: You teach your children to resolve conflict by modeling it in your relationship with them. In every relationship, we will hurt and disappoint each other. You’ve got to use those little lessons, those opportunities in life to drive the point home.
Resolving conflict with your child demands three things. First, it demands that you communicate to him that his attitude or behavior has hurt you. Your child may not care that he has hurt you, but it is your responsibility to communicate to him that you are ready to reconcile.
Second, you have to ask, “Will you forgive me?” You must be willing not only to forgive what he has done, but also to ask forgiveness for what you have done.
Third, you need to move to reconciliation, which restores the relationship and teaches the child that actions have consequences. In order for forgiveness and reconciliation to take place, there is a cost that has to be counted and a price that has to be paid for the relationship to be put back together.
I would really encourage couples to coach each other in conflict resolution. In the weariness of the battle, sometimes you don’t feel like pursuing a relationship with your child if it means working through one more hassle. Put your arm around your spouse and help him or her reconnect with the child.
The conflict you are working through might already be deep-seated in a relationship. Even at that point, the parent must continually be working to re-establish a relationship and to move toward restoration.
I’m convicted by the verse in Ephesians that encourages us to forgive each other “even as God, for Christ’s sake has forgiven you.” How has God forgiven me? As the father of the prodigal son, who stood on the porch waiting, letting his son know that he wanted the relationship to be restored. How has God forgiven me? Seventy times seven—more than I could ever forgive my children.
We’ve got to model this kind of forgiveness for our children and teach them how to show it to others.
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