Handling Conflict in the Family

Each person has a little bit different approach to conflict, a little bit different I would say skillset when it comes to conflict. Jeff’s got a good skillset. Jeff doesn’t mind conflict. He’s like bring it on. 

That’s right. I love it. 

My skillset is a little bit weaker I would say. Really one of the things I struggle with a lot is that when I sense a conflict needs to happen, like oh, gosh, we got to have a conversation and I don’t think we’re going to agree, my first reaction to that, the feeling I have in my gut is fear, fear that this will actually damage the relationship. By bringing up this topic, by having this conversation it’s not going to go well. Things aren’t going to be better on the other side of it. 

This has been something I’ve had to really work through, and I think the proper sort of stance when it comes to conflict or the need to have a hard conversation with your spouse or with one of your kids or maybe even with your parents or something is there’s got to be deep in your soul or your gut in approaching these a feeling of hope, like I think things can be better.

That helps you not give way to anger, not give into fear, to say a normal part of family life is conflict. Actually conflict is important. It’s important to learn to be good at it. It is a skill. So one of the things I like… For example I struggle with a lot is that I’ll avoid conflict and then when I’m forced into it I’ll often do something in the course of those conflicting conversations that sort of sets a bad tone, gives way to anger, like does something that will lessen the likelihood that it’ll have a good outcome, and then it becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy, right? Because now all of a sudden, see, see, that’s what happens when you have conflict. It’s bad. Relationships are damaged. Conflict is to be avoided. 

I’ve learned that that is really just a bad pattern of thinking in that if I were to really be honest with myself I would just say it’s a skill problem. I’m not good at it. I need to learn to be better at it. I need to learn to fight well, have conflicts well, hang in there, not give way to anger or not give way to exaggeration or not be too agreeable or too disagreeable.

So I’ve just learned that’s a skill problem. I’ve got to mature in that area, but it is really important to embrace this. The verse that’s really helped me, sort of centers me in this area, is Ephesians 4:15. It says, “Instead we will speak the truth in love, growing in every way more and more like Christ, who is the head of his body, the church.” 

Ephesians 4 is one of my favorite chapters in the whole Bible. It really is talking about what it looks like to mature as the church or as the body of Christ, but right in the center of this chapter Paul sort of drops this incredibly important sort of though bomb, which is that what it means to grow and mature into Christ, it really hinges on speaking the truth in love. 

That is a popular phrase sort of in all of the world, even the secular world today, but it really comes from this verse and it’s really important… That is what gives me the hope that even if I lack some of the skill of having hard conversations and that that’s something I have to grow in, but this is the only way you do grow as a family. You have to learn to speak the truth in love, which is almost by definition a conflicting thing. 

When you have to say something hard, when you have to speak the truth and you have to remember to do that in love, that is always opening the door to potential conflict, and you’ve got to wade in, you got to… Jeff, you’re way better at this than I am. Help us out. Like how do we do this?

No, I mean I think you nailed all the points. One thing I would say that is… Yeah, that you have to normalize conflict in a family. Two things, but when I say normalize that doesn’t mean do it wrong either, right? I would say normalize conflict, but then always be debriefing conflict, meaning always be saying how did we do that? Were we kind? Were we gentle? Did we grow? Not just like oh, we hash it out and box each other. That’s not helpful either, right? So yeah, always… So make it… normalize it and then debrief it.

One last thing I’ll say too, is I’ve been kind of thinking for this, what’s the word, paradigm or model of kind of these two buckets of a lot of parents are either coaches or they’re babysitters, and I’ve been kind of sitting and stewing on that a little bit. 

One big difference between a babysitter and a coach I realized is babysitters are almost terrified of like the ice cracking around any issue, right? You’re kind of just like… That shows that… Like a babysitter’s job is to kind of keep the peace. A babysitter’s job is to kind of make these five hours go very smoothly.

Now a coach’s job is usually the opposite. A coach inherently believes I can only take this team to this place if there’s an immense amount of tension and friction and where I actually see them doing wrong so I can coach them. It’s the exact opposite belief. Like weightlifting for example, that your muscles don’t grow if they’re not actually being ripped apart. 

I think coaching is identical to that, so this is a cousin a little bit of conflict, like growth and conflict is one aspect of how that growth works. I just think, yeah, it’s inherent that teams and coaches… There’s an immense friction and there’s an immense kind of a dynamic feeling of the group, kind of sparks flying per se, when you’re a team. 

The babysitter paradigm, a lot of us default there with out realizing it so I think we just need to be really aware of that.

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