Thursday, September 26, 2013


The following blog is purely my own observation and opinion. I have not done any scientific research or read any scholarly works on the subject. Therefore it is open to discussion, disagreement, your own observation and any anecdotal evidence you may wish to reveal.

We are a nation of conflict avoiders. The vast majority of people will not face a potential conflict. If someone "wrongs" you in some way, you ruminate about it but don't do anything about it. We tend to see conflict as distasteful. If we get bad service at a restaurant, we say nothing or are passive-aggressive about it (this steak was cooked wrong, but that's ok I'm just not going to tip the server that didn't actually cook the food wrong to begin with). We glare at other people arguing in public. We are aghast when someone loudly pleads their case or expresses their disdain. Some even call police when people are just arguing. Parents will often not resolve disagreements in front of kids. We feel it is best to shield them from the fact that mommy and daddy sometimes disagree.

I'm not saying this is, in and of itself, a bad thing. I don't think that conflict is either good or bad. It is, however, inevitable. Conflict happens at every level in nature. Beings disagree with each other. Whether it is territorial, reproductive, religious, or just a disagreement about price, conflict is going to happen. Gosh, sometimes conflict happens within oneself! Why then do we shy away from it?

Obviously conflict is not overly "comfortable" and it is not always pleasant to find yourself in a disagreement. For some, the mere fact that they are not "right" is such a blow to their ego that they are indignant ("wait, you mean I am not the omniscient center of the universe?!?!?!?"). No one has ever taught that person the value of "no." For many, many others they have never been taught how to disagree. They never saw an example of healthy disagreement when they were forming their world view. Perhaps they had an abusive, tyrannical parent. Perhaps they had a single parent that had no one to disagree with. Perhaps their parents were "perfect" and never disagreed (in front of them). Either way, they never got to see two adults settle a disagreement and still maintain a relationship. They fear conflict because healthy resolution is an unknown. Unfortunately, as stated earlier, conflict is inevitable and thus when it arises they handle it poorly. At best they get their feelings hurt, at worst they lash out in a violent way. 

So what do we do? Do we purposely have conflict so we can teach our kids how to deal with it? No, of course not. I suggest we work on it ourselves first and then don't be afraid to talk to our kids about our own success and failure when conflict arises. Kids are more perceptive than we give them credit for. Ask them questions. "Junior, mommy and daddy disagree about what to fix for dinner tonight. Mommy thinks we should have meatloaf because the ground turkey is about to expire. Daddy thinks we should go out to eat because we don't have any veggies to fix with the meatloaf and he is tired. How should we settle this." Let them know it is not a situation of "daddy won the argument." It is more a situation of "the argument got settled and no one lost any blood." Most importantly, once the argument is settled, it is settled. Also, once the argument is settled, the relationship is back to normal. This is key. Kids cannot go through life thinking that a single argument will make me not love you any more. 

Finally, teach them that sometimes things aren't worth arguing over. Have principles, stick to those and otherwise go with the flow. If you love someone, let them "win" sometimes. Decide what is actually important to argue about and then be gentle with it. Don't be a tyrant. You can avoid conflict sometimes by just not being selfish. At the same time, don't be spineless. Be strong and be flexible. 

Again, that's just my 2 cents (well, it may be more like 12 cents, I got to rambling a bit). I would love to see what you think about conflict, our tendency to avoid it and how to teach kids about it. Have a great week.


Rachel Odom said...

I agree with you. I know someone who has to have her way every time. There is no give and take, only a sense of entitlement. I have no idea if her parents argued in front og her or not. Christopher and I disagree witg each other in front of the kids but we don't argue. We talk and hash things out and move on. Its the best thing we can do for our kids and we had to learn do it. We learned it though, and we have been able to work through all of our problems with a foundation of communication love and trust that this is not the end. Phonetyping sorry for typos.

Daniel said...

It's my opinion that our society could do with a bit more confrontation with a side of consideration and humility. Don't be afraid to engage in dialogue with someone in a confrontational nature when a conflict needs to be resolved. Do so with kindness, consideration, and humility and the world will be a better place for it.

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