It happened recently. One of our children came home from a social gathering with a story of conflict and word-wounds inflicted.
As a parent, the mama-bear in me quickly rises, but when our children face conflict with their peers, it is a unique opportunity for us to help them live out the gospel and to grow, even through the heartache.
So what do we do?
1) Gather the facts. For our family, this often comes quite easily because three of our children are in a similar stage and as we ask questions, we can usually get a fairly accurate rendition of what took place when the conflict occurred. But questions are the key in this step. We must ask questions that mine the roots of what our own child may have done to incite or invite or aggravate the dissension.
2) Draw out empathy. Even if it seems that the other child is clearly in the wrong, we must help our child see the situation from the other child's viewpoint. It may help to ask questions like, "What do you think made her say or do _____" or "Why do you think he was feeling so angry with you?" As we try to help our child brainstorm what, if anything, they may have done to create or add to the conflict, if hopefully will help them gain compassion for the other child's perspective.
A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. ~John 13:34 & 35
3) Share your own heartache. Sharing about a time when we were personally treated unkindly or unfairly, helps our child know that we can relate to what they are feeling. It is important that our child knows we really do care and our hearts aches when they are hurt by another.
4) Bring it back to Jesus. We can remind our child about the many times that Jesus faced unfair treatment and still showed kindness, that He understands better than anyone, how they are hurting. As we talk about how God sees everything and we can entrust ourselves to a God who judges righteously, it is a good opportunity to remind our child of God's good news message-- that we all are sinners and we shouldn't be surprised when there is conflict in relationships, but that Jesus came to die for sin and He offers forgiveness, which we must also extend to others. Through Him, there is hope for healing and redemption in relationships.
Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you. ~Eph. 4:32
5) Pray for the other child and for his/her parents. In God's Word He commands us to pray for our enemies. God can develop emotions of love and concern for another when we are obedient to take a step of faith and pray for someone even when we don't feel like it. We can pray that God will convict the other child if they are in the wrong.
6) Pray for yourself and for your child. We all have blind spots or areas of sin that need to be addressed and it is important for us to spend time asking God to show us where we are in the wrong. We can also pray that God would give us a heart of compassion and patience towards even those who have hurt us. We can ask us to help us speak words rooted in love.
Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart Be acceptable in Your sight, O Lord, my rock and my Redeemer. ~Psalm 19:14
7) Develop a plan for the future. This may just mean we help our child prepare appropriate and kind responses that they can use in the future if conflict arises again, but if the conflict is beyond our child's ability to navigate, it may involve humbly and prayerfully communicating with the other child's parents or with the supervising adult, if we will not be present and their has been a pattern to the conflict. The key is to remember how we, as parents, would want to be treated if our child was the offender and if communication beyond child-to-child is necessary, it is always best to go first to those most immediately involved.
8) Entrust the outcome to God. Finally, it is important to remember that we cannot control another person's response. We must do what is right, without being frightened by fear, entrusting ourselves to Him, but ultimately we can pray that God will let us feel peace even if the other child does not respond in the way we hope.
If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all. ~Romans 12:18
It is never fun to see our child hurting, but conflict can be something that God uses to draw our children closer to Himself and to us.
With Love, Kara