My kids attend a classical school which uses the age-old Trivium as the model for education. In the Grammar years, they do lots of memorization because that’s what little minds naturally want to do. In the Logic years (roughly middle school), they begin to take all that information and make well-reasoned arguments or defend ideas. One of my 7th grader’s teachers quipped recently that “teaching 7th graders to argue well is like giving a squirrel an energy drink.” How true. It’s a fact that verbally pushing back against some ideas is a natural part of adolescent development. And older tweens and teens are hardwired to challenge authority and question the status quo. But this needn’t be a cause for true conflict or total exasperation on the parent’s end.
Healthy conflict begins by planning ahead, and learning how to have conflict calmly, maturely, and kindly. First, understand why teenagers like to argue. Next, realize that this is a slippery slope and that some arguing isn’t healthy or respectful. So take a look at iSpecialist Dr. Gary Oliver’s 12 insights for healthy conflict that you and your child can learn from.
1. Conflict is a natural phenomenon and is inevitable. An occupational hazard of being human is that we will experience conflict.
2. Conflict involves both personal needs and relationship needs.
3. Most conflict is not dealt with openly because most people have not been taught effective ways of resolving conflict. When there is conflict, most of us tend to personalize it, interpret it as an attack, and magnify negative implications of statements.
4. Conflict provides opportunities for growth in a relationship.
5. Unresolved conflicts interfere with growth and satisfying relationships. Problems don’t magically disappear. They go underground and grow and develop into other problems.
6. As we understand the value of conflict, we can allow it to serve a more positive and constructive role in our lives.
7. The more we try to deny, hide from, overlook, and otherwise avoid conflict, the greater the problem becomes.
8. It is normal to feel defensive when challenged or criticized; thus conflict often involves anger.
9. Conflict isn’t good or bad, right or wrong…conflict simply is. It is how we choose to respond to conflict that produces the growth or creates the real problem.
10. If we want conflict to serve a constructive role in our lives, pursuing healthy conflict must become a priority.
11. Constructive conflict involves a commitment to serve one another, encourage one another, and be vulnerable with one another. In the early stages, it involves caring enough to be willing to take some risks.
12. Constructive conflict involves a commitment to stop, look, listen, and then – maybe – speak.
Tell us! How do you and your spouse handle conflicts? Do you think there is a better way of doing so?