The scene: One of my sons started crying out loud because he was frustrated with his older brother. Another stormed out of the room because he was hurt. And a third dramatized the whole thing in a tone that bordered on losing his cool. This was the situation a couple of days ago when the boys could not get along while playing with Lincoln Logs and Magna Tiles.
So I called them out for a “conference” in the living room, on the couch, and I brought out a wooden spoon. At first they thought I was going to use it as a make-shift spanking rod. “Are you going to spank us, mom?”, one of them nervously asked. But I told them, “I am not going to spank you. We are going to discuss what happened and whoever holds the spoon gets to talk. No one interrupts while the spoon is being held by someone.” This made sense to them and they nodded their heads.
I handed the spoon to Titus. He explained why he got upset in short sentences (he is only 3). “Elijah hit my head. I got angry.” Elijah was about to interject because it had been an accident and he was protesting that Titus’ over reaction was not fair, but I reminded him of the spoon rule. He quieted himself.
Next up was Edan. Edan took the spoon and articulated how he kicked down the tower he was making when a part if it was unintentionally knocked down by Elijah. But he acknowledged that he was wrong for losing his temper.
It was then Elijah’s turn as he reached out eagerly for the spoon. He was a little combative at first about the whole thing, “It was just an accident when I hit Titus’ head and when I bumped the tower and they got sooo angry at me!” But we stuck to the issue and isolated the root of his hurt — which was that he felt that Edan and Titus didn’t want to play with him. (He is a very relational person.) I had to tell him, “Edan and Titus were not right for losing their temper but you still need to remember that the accidents caused by you were very upsetting to them and you also need to say sorry.”
As we ended the meeting and everyone had a chance to share what they did wrong, what upset them, and how they needed to change, I reminded them about the Bible verse Edric had asked them to memorize. James 1:19 “Be quick to hear, slow to speak and slow to anger.” They agreed about how they had to apply this and that they had done things and said things that made Jesus sad.
At this point, I asked them all to hold on to the spoon and I said, “Now it’s time for each one of you to ask for forgiveness, forgive each other and say that you love one another.”
They followed wholeheartedly and their differences were settled in a loving and God-honoring manner. And they went right back to playing together and having fun!
This conflict resolution experience was a good lesson in parenting for me. As I listened to them and facilitated their restoration, God reminded me that I need to teach my kids how to settle conflict properly. It is extremely important that they grow better and not bitter from conflict with one another and with others.
The Lord reminded me that they are not yet equipped to process their feelings, identify and focus on the root issues in their conflicts. They also need encouragement when it comes to admitting their own faults, saying sorry, choosing to forgive one another, and recognizing that it boils down to their relationship with God. They must be taught that the most God-honoring solution is the best solution. While Edric and I don’t always have to be their referees, we are responsible for their relational health, and how they will deal with conflict in future relationships. After all, proper conflict resolution begins at home.