Searching for Peace: Using the Slippery Slope to Teach my Kids about Conflict Resolution
If you have a family like mine… Hmmm, how do I say this nicely? You probably have plenty of opportunities to help your children practice conflict resolution. Or, as the case may be, you have plenty of opportunities to yell at them and send them to separate rooms… Maybe you are like me and sometimes when your children are engaged in conflict you do a good job helping them get to the root of the issue and decide on a fair resolution, and sometimes you just don’t have the time or patience for it. I’m the Children’s Ministry Director at my church and right now I’m teaching the 2-5th grade students the Young Peacemaker’s curriculum. It starts off with the Slippery Slope of conflict, and I think this is a really useful thing for all families to understand!
|From the Young Peacemaker curriculum on Peacemaker.net|
On one side of the Slippery Slope you’ll find the escape responses. These are the “peace faking” responses to conflict. Often kids get in less trouble for choosing an escape response than they would if they chose an attack response, but if you want them to have healthy relationships as an adult it’s important for them to learn that escape responses are not a substitute for real peace. Denying that there is a problem is the first escape response. This is a problem because while a person might be pretending that everything is ok, he is actually harboring unforgiveness and bitterness in his heart. Sometimes when people are in conflict they make use of the “blame game”, finding reasons why the other party (rather than themselves) are responsible for the conflict. Or, a person might choose the “run away” response, where she just avoids being with or talking to the person who she is in conflict with. You might see escape responses being used in your family when a child who is not getting his own way declares “Well then I’m not playing with you!” and storms off to play by himself. Or perhaps you have a child who is blaming others (or you!) for her choices instead of respectfully accepting the consequences.
On the other side of the Slippery Slope you’ll find the attack responses. These are “peace breaking” responses to conflict. The first of the attack responses are “put downs”, where children deal with conflict by insulting another person. This almost always makes conflict worse as the offended child is almost certain to come up with a put down in return. The second attack response is gossip, and would more likely be employed by an older child. The final attack response is fighting, where things get physical in response to conflict.
So why is it helpful to know about escape and attack responses? Well, it’s helpful for several reasons. One is that it’s a great thing to talk to your kids about during a peaceful moment, and help them identify the side of the slippery slope they are most likely to “fall down”. This provides an opportunity for them to pray for God’s help in this area and may help them make a different choice when conflict looms. The other day when my younger son T had taken something from his older brother A, A responded by running down the hallway intent on getting T back. I called out “think about the slippery slope!”. A stopped running and looked at me. I asked, “Which side are you falling down?” “The attack side”, he responded. “How can you choose a work-it-out response”, I countered. Sighing, he said to his brother, “I didn’t like it that you took that piece from me. May I have it back please?” Understanding how your child responds to conflict can also give you interesting insights into your child’s life when he or she is not with you. For example, when I talked about this with my 8 year old son, he admitted that at home with his brother he is likely to choose an attack response to conflict, but at school or with friends he would choose an escape response because he’s afraid of getting in trouble or having people not like him.
But wait, you might be asking – what are these fabulous “work-it-out” responses that you speak of? This are the “peace making” responses to conflict that are on the top of the slippery slope. Sometimes children need to employ the “overlook” response to conflict. This is different than denial because it involves forgiveness and the ability to take care of the problem by one’s self. The second work-it-out response is to talk with the other person. There is a lot more information in the full curriculum about how to talk to someone when you are in conflict, but a good start is to have your child us an “I feel” statement to talk about the problem. The third work-it-out response is to get help from a trusted adult. This could involve asking an adult for advice about how to deal with the conflict, or directly involving the adult in deciding its outcome.
If you’re interested in teaching your kids more about peacemaking, the 12 part curriculum is for sale for $19.99. No I’m not getting paid for telling you that! I just think it’s a really valuable resource. You can print out the Slipper Slope from this website. Or, if some of the things in this post have hit home for you in terms of how YOU deal with conflict, you may want to look around the Peacemaker website or read the book The Peace Maker.