It’s our job as parents to teach our tweens how to navigate conflict. First, though, we need to have healthy conflict resolution skills ourselves.
“I don’t get involved in my daughters’ friendships,” she informed me. The slight tremor in her voice, along with the way she uneasily shifted in her seat, seemed to convey that my efforts at conflict resolution unnerved her.
Discomfort had not been my goal, though. Instead, peacemaking had.
For over a month, one of my daughters had regularly experienced “mean girl” interactions with this woman’s similarly-aged tween. Because the two girls were in a unique situation where they had no choice but to spend dedicated time together every day, it was an ongoing plight my husband Ted and I couldn’t ignore.
Believe me, we’d tried.
There’d been weeks of us encouraging our daughter to believe the best. We hoped that this girl’s consistent negative words and insensitive actions were merely a series of unfortunate events not intended as direct unkindness. We’d even challenged our tween to pray for this girl and to look for ways to be loving in response.
Yet, the issues persisted. Consistently.
I decided to approach this other mom. I brought with me a “I choose to believe the best about your daughter” attitude and the humble MO of wanting to work together to help our girls get along. Surely, I told myself, the two of us can devise a plan to improve the situation.
But here she was telling me she didn’t want to get involved.
As Parents, Here’s Why We’d Can’t Avoid Conflict
I’d later learn that this mom simply “didn’t do conflict.” It made her uncomfortable, so she avoided it as much as possible.
Maybe the same is true of you. You may find it easier to take an “I don’t get involved in my kids’ friendships” or “I don’t do conflict” stance, especially when your tween’s relationships become hard. The problem is, though, all a hands-off parenting philosophy in this area often does is allow you as a parent to avoid addressing your own discomfort with conflict.
Your tweens and mine are going to experience conflict with their peers. It’s inevitable. And, most of our kids aren’t emotionally mature enough to intuitively know how to resolve it on their own.
The truth is that in order for them to mature into independent adults capable of maintaining healthy relationships, they need strong conflict resolution skills. And not the kind they’ve simply “picked up” or devised on their own. They need us to gently come alongside them and teach them, both through word and action, how to navigate difficult interactions with others well.
But, here’s the thing: We can’t teach them how to work through conflict well, if we don’t know how to ourselves.
Small Steps to Build Your Conflict Resolution Skills
If your conflict resolution skills are lacking, what are some small steps I recommend you take to build them? Here are four things that may be helpful.
1. Read a Book on Conflict Resolution
A great place to start is with a book. Ken Sande’s The Peacemaker: A Biblical Guide to Resolving Personal Conflict lays out the biblical process for confliction resolution and offers practical thoughts on how you can use it when you face issues with others.
2. Role Play Conflict Resolution Scenarios
Once you understand the basic principles of healthy conflict resolution, sit down with your spouse or a close friend and role play. Practice working through pretend issues.
3. Start Small in Real-World Conflict Resolution
Don’t attempt to tackle big conflicts in the beginning. Instead, start small. Being able to navigate small disagreements or issues successfully will build your confidence for when you encounter larger problems that need to be addressed and discussed.
4. Get Outside Training and Help
Take a workshop or seminar on healthy conflict resolution skills. Or, schedule a few sessions with a family counselor who can help you learn and improve.
Your Healthy Conflict Resolution Skills Matter to Your Tweens
The situation for our daughter never improved. I sometimes wonder, though, what could have happened if this other mom had chosen to willingly engage in the conflict resolution process with me. Is it possible that together we could have turned the situation around?
I can’t say for sure.
What I can say is that my tweens and yours need us to be the kind of parents who help teach and equip them to handle conflict well. We can only do this, though, if we’re willing to continually build and strengthen our own conflict resolution skills.