Ever feel like a referee?
If you have children, then you’re no stranger to conflict resolution.
How do we know what behavior to address and what to ignore?
When do we throw the yellow flag and how do we best discipline for the infraction?
How do we teach conflict resolution—to preschoolers?
As any NFL referee can tell us, it helps to establish the rules of the game. A ref can’t throw a flag for an infraction that hasn’t been clearly established, so here are a few ways to prep our teams for life’s inevitable conflicts.
1. Abusive behavior is ALWAYS wrong. Bullying. Inappropriate touching. Words that tear down. Hitting. Manipulation. When these occur, train your children to tell a trusted adult, one who will take appropriate action. Mom and Dad, that means us, especially if one child is abusive toward a sibling. That abused child looks to us for protection and to fail them is NOT an option.
Romans 12:18 says, “If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone.” An abusive situation requires us to set boundaries to protect our children. Do what you need to do.
2. Kindness rules. Set clear guidelines on sharing and spats. Outline consequences for poor choices and rewards for good ones. Romans 12:21 says, “Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.”
3. Understand the battle. We all battle our sin nature, so let’s talk to our kids about it. James 1:14-15 reads, “but each person is tempted when they are dragged away by their own evil desire and enticed. Then, after desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, gives birth to death.”
None of us prevail apart from the Holy Spirit. But He is with us, so partner up! The Holy Spirit comes into a believer’s life when they accept Christ’s work on the cross on their behalf for the forgiveness of sin. This may be a great time to have that conversation with your kids.
4. Cultivate the fruit of the Spirit. Specifically, patience and self-control. Check out these proverbs:
“Fools show their annoyance at once, but the prudent overlook an insult.” Proverbs 12:16
“A person’s wisdom yields patience; it is to one’s glory to overlook an offense.” Proverbs 19:11
“Fools give full vent to their rage, but the wise bring calm in the end.” Proverbs 29:11
Publicly reward progress.
5. Promote love. Proverbs 17:9b reads, “Whoever would foster love covers over an offense.” God gives this behavior a thumbs-up. Teach your children to release an offense. To let it go. I know, easier said than done, which brings me to my last point.
What do we do with all those hurt feelings?
We take them to God. Lay them down at Jesus’ feet. He knows the scene. He’s lived it. He understands. People treated Jesus that way too and then some. Let Him help us and our kids process our pain.
When we are anchored in God’s love, we don’t have to defend ourselves. God has our back.
We don’t need a sassy retort.
We don’t have to replay the tapes.
God loves us. Period. End of story.
The enemy seeks to divide. Friends. Family. Spouses. He steals, kills, and destroys.
God is about unity. Reconciliation. Forgiveness. Mercy.
Prepare your kids for the game and help them through those yellow flag moments.
- Give each child a voice. Talk to them individually. Find out what hurts their feelings. Let them talk about how they feel and why. Pray with them about how to handle those situations. Ask God for wisdom.
- Talk about justice and mercy. Define the terms. Justice: what is deserved. Mercy: what is not deserved. Which would they like to receive?
- Talk about anger management. What might help them process their anger? A walk? A timeout? Music? Hitting a pillow? If anger is a challenge, memorize verses that speak to this issue. A concordance can help find verses appropriate for your need.
- Plant some seeds. A key to letting offenses go is being rooted and established in God’s love. Offer a visual through actual seeds and sprouts.