We love Thanksgiving! Unfortunately, it's a holiday that often gets overlooked in America today. The undeniable facts about our Christian history are too inconvenient for the media – and the consumerism of the Christmas season is too intoxicating for masses – for us to pause and remember this amazing holiday the way we should.
But as much as we'd love to write about it, we just can't do the holiday any more justice than what David Barton at Wall Builders wrote several years ago. We've read this article at both our company and family Thanksgiving gatherings for several years now. You should take a minute to read it … and then come back to read the rest of this – because during the holiday season we spend so much time with family that learning how to deal with conflict amongst the kiddos is vital. My (David's) wife, Lori, wrote a short piece on how we're trying to tackle it in our home this holiday season:
Part of living in an imperfect world means there are problems that arise on a daily basis, especially during this season when "wants" are on hyper drive.
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As parents, how should we respond, and how can we help lead our kids in a Christ-like response? Here are five ways we're doing it in our home – or at least trying to do it!
- Don't react quickly. Tears running down his face, your sweet child tells you of the injustice done to him. You can feel your temperature rising as he speaks. Although we're tempted to react immediately, don't! There are times that an isolated incident happens and it doesn't spread from there. Many times children can work out these smaller issues themselves. If they know you won't defend them without some questioning first, then they become empowered to work it out … for themselves.
- Get to the root of the problem. Because the problem is never really the problem. When you peel back the layers, there is usually more to the story and more at the heart of the issue. Maybe the one aggravating your child has deeper issues? Maybe your child has an offense towards them? The answer lies in a Christ-centered approach. 1 Corinthians 4:12-13 says, "When reviled, we bless; when persecuted, we endure; when slandered, we try to conciliate." Impossible? Yes, apart from Christ we can do nothing. Take advantage of these messy problems that have a beautiful way of being redeemed when you allow Christ to do His work.
- Give the benefit of the doubt. This goes a long way in life. I've been "that mom" and wished I would've waited before I brought a problem up to the other child or another parent. I addressed "the problem," only to find out I didn't have all the facts and assumed wrong motives. Ouch! Today, we've implemented the third-offense rule in our house. I wait before reacting. If the incident happens more than once, I walk my child through ways to approach it. If it drops on its own, hooray! He/she learned how to work through it. If it's a repeated/more complex issue (more than twice), that's when we have to inconvenience ourselves and pause to dig much deeper. If it's a child outside the home, it might be a good idea to approach the other parent – with kindness, understanding that we all have areas for which we need grace in our own lives. We need to be eager to give grace to the offender. This is hard stuff, but 2 Corinthians 12:9 encourages us, "My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness. Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ's power may rest on me."
- Remember there are two sides to every story. "One person's story seems right until the other has spoken. ..." (Proverbs 18:7) My kids would fault us for trying to see the perspective of the "other side" first. Encourage your kids to see the problem from another's point of view. Role play how they would feel if they were the one being talked about, having the bad day, or having problems at school. We usually have grace for our own failures, but not so much for other's shortcomings. Growing in grace happens as we see how much we have been forgiven. It gives us perspective to forgive others the same way. Besides the fact that God does not hear our prayers when we are unforgiving to others – "Forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive the trespasses of others."
- Remember that sandpaper smooths the rough spots. We love it when God uses people's strengths to get us where He wants us, but we hate it when He uses someone's weaknesses to do the same. People can be like sandpaper in our lives. Their "annoyances" can be used to smooth out our rough edges. We can encourage our kids to see how they react to certain personalities that are difficult. Whether you are the offender or the one offended, it is certain that God can use it for both of you, to smooth your rough edges and make you a better person.
So this holiday season, let's help our kids (and ourselves) through the conflict process. It's a lifelong endeavor. Our families, schools and communities will be blessed by our efforts!