When You Still Can't Resolve Conflict

A mom and her teen sitting back-to-back with their arms folded while sitting in a field
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We encourage you as a family to establish a mutually agreed-upon per­son who, in the event of a major impasse, will listen to both sides and help solve the problem. This goes beyond seeking wise counsel, which we dis­cussed earlier. Find someone acceptable to each member of the family — someone who can remain unbiased, whom everyone respects and feels safe with, and who will maintain confidentiality and privacy.

Having such a person available gives your family support and accounta­bility. Likewise, when you get an outside opinion to help solve a family conflict, you can tap into a source of new information or perspectives you hadn't considered before. That person might provide the fresh idea that helps you and your teen to find a win/win decision.

A Final Comment About Resolving Conflicts in Honor

Part of resolving conflicts with our teens in honor is to recognize that they need the freedom to make more and more of their own choices. Just how many and how soon depends on their age and maturity level (it will be dif­ferent for every child). This is a normal and necessary part of growing into adulthood. As they demonstrate the ability to make wise choices, they earn further responsibility.

As parents, we help them not only by giving them this increasing free­dom, but also by holding them accountable for their decisions. If they make poor choices, they need to face the logical and natural consequences that fol­low. This is called discipline, which is a clear parental responsibility: "Correct your son, and he will give you comfort; he will also delight your soul" (Proverbs 29:17). For our teens, discipline is a learning opportunity. Look at what the Bible says about receiving it:

Whoever loves discipline loves knowledge, but he who hates reproof is stupid. (Proverbs 12:1)

Poverty and shame will come to him who neglects discipline, but he who regards reproof will be honored. (Proverbs 13:18)

He who neglects discipline despises himself, but he who listens to reproof acquires understanding. (Proverbs 15:32)

No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, how­ever, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it. (Hebrews 12:11)

Agree ahead of time on what the consequences of poor choices will be. The more our teens know in advance about what to expect, the easier it is to hold them accountable.

As we've said before, there will also still be times when parents have to make a decision their teenagers don't like. In that case, it's essential for both parents to be in agreement. If they're not, teens will use the conflict to their advantage. (Most teens seem to have a built-in radar that detects even the slightest marital discord.) King Solomon wisely said, "Two are better than one. ... A cord of three strands is not quickly torn apart" (Ecclesiastes 4:9, 12). So, once you and your spouse agree on a decision, instead of simply "laying down the law," explain lovingly why you have made that particular choice.

Conflict between parents and teenagers is inevitable, but it doesn't need to weaken their relationship or tear the family apart. Using drive-thru talking, establishing some basic rules for fair fighting, and utilizing the seven steps toward resolution described in this module will enable us to work out most disagreements in honor. If, after all that, a conflict has still not ended and a win/win solution hasn't yet been found, we can repeat the process or seek a third party to help bring about an honorable resolution.

Taken from The DNA of Parent-Teen Relationships: Discover the Key to Your Teen's Heart published by Tyndale House Publishers, Inc. Copyright © 1998 and 2005 by Gary Smalley and Greg Smalley, Psy.D. All rights reserved.

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