We’ve had an unseasonably cool spring here in Cincinnati. You may be experiencing cooler than usual temperatures – in Michigan, my friends post pictures of snow-covered trees on Facebook.
Our girls are experiencing a similar chill in their relationship lately. We’re a pretty tight-knit bunch. My three girls would generally rather stay home than go out with friends, a sentiment for which I’m extremely thankful. But right now, I’m noticing that they’re spending more time apart. They’ve started to get more annoyed with each other. I’m noticing lots more eyes are rolling and sighs combined with shrugs of “I just don’t get her.”
What that means for me is that I spend more time mediating. This is the toughest work I do all day. It’s so hard to talk to someone you love about the deficiencies of someone else that you love just as much. I generally have to talk to each one separately, then together. Thank you, God, for we have our faith foundation to give us common language and shared stories to see us through these moments.
“She’s acting crazy.” Also known as: “I’ve tried telling her how I feel when she does that, but she does it anyway.” “She doesn’t listen when I tell her that.”
The first thing I do is pray for guidance. Then, I call on the wisdom of Jesus. As a Godly Play teacher, I’ve taught them the stories of Jesus’ life, the parables. I know they know those stories, and I use that knowledge to help me work out their differences. I call on the successes and mistakes of Moses and the Israelites, whose impatience and dis-belief angered God. Drawing on the wisdom of the Spirit, I walk with the girls using words like pause, stop, listen, let go, explain, agree, disagree, and respect.
It’s great to want your kids to be nice to each other all the time, but that’s not realistic. Even Jesus wasn’t nice all the time. In fact, a clergy colleague once told me that actually, Jesus was not nice at all. I couldn’t believe that! Since then, I’ve read scripture with that in mind, and I have to admit I see his point.
Jesus had lots of love for everyone, but he practiced his ministry with tough love. He was fair and clear with his words and actions. When we have conflict with others, let’s be honest and use direct, clear language. Remind your kids, and yourself, to think before you speak. As long as your words are rooted in love, they should be received in the same way.
When I talk to my girls the next time one of them comes to me frustrated with her sister, I’ll continue to look to my faith for inspiration. Conflict often leads to beauty and growth, just as we can find beauty in the spring chill.
How do you handle conflict in your family?