Conflict is part of life, and although our families get along well, our time together at cottage school is not immune from the arguments and fights that spring up between kids. We are thankful that we are able to work with our kids through the conflict since conflict is an opportunity to grow. Here are a few things we have learned along the way.
1. Tools we use for resolving conflict: We have taken time during our morning opening time to use some of the lessons found in “The Young Peacemaker” by Corrlette Sande to give us a foundation and framework for speaking with the kids about the details of their conflict. When a conflict arises, it has been invaluable to be able to dig in with them and help the kids see why they are having conflict, what methods they are using to work out their conflict, and determine if they aren’t actually working it out but faking peace or continuing to break peace amongst themselves. It isn’t particularly fun to work out conflict, but we see it as a valuable part of our kids’ education.
2. Practical things we do: We have worked out conflict with our kids enough times that they pretty much know the drill. So when they come to us with a conflict, but haven’t given a good effort to work it out on their own, we typically ask them to first try to work it out themselves, but if they can’t, we remind them that one of the tools for working out conflict is to seek assistance so that we are available after they have tried. When they come back for help (as most of the time they do!), one or two of us moms will facilitate each side sharing their version of events, and then we ask questions to help them figure out what in the world is going on in their hearts! Typically, it doesn’t take very long for each side to see where they are preferring themselves over all others and come to see how they can each give a little and go back to playing together with some sort of resolution to the conflict, though sometimes the best way forward is to have a bit of space and for them to do something separate for awhile.
3. Why we don’t ignore conflict: It would be easier in the short term for us moms if we were to ignore or brush aside the somewhat petty arguments that arise between our children, but that doesn’t really serve us or them well in the long term. Sadly, because we live in a broken world, we each face conflict of some sort throughout our lives and practicing how to resolve conflict now will hopefully serve them their whole lives. We hope by God’s grace that our children will be able to “live at peace with everyone” (Romans 12:18), so taking the time to work through childhood conflict will hopefully give them the ability to work through bigger conflicts they will face later on in their lives.
4. Encouragement for you: None of us is perfect, and we don’t always get to the heart of the matter with our kids in conflict. We fail often in our parenting and schooling. But thankfully, the Lord is gracious and compassionate to those who are his, and he doesn’t hold our weak or failed attempts against us. So be encouraged that in the midst of teaching your kids how to navigate conflict, it is yet another opportunity for you to show your dependence on the Lord for wisdom and grace and likewise, their need as well. So even though it’s uncomfortable and messy, conflict is an opportunity to grow in humble dependence on the Lord–and that’s a lesson worth learning over and over.