Conflict resolution is an important skill set Christian parents need to teach their children. But there’s another type of disagreement that, while still conflict, requires a slightly different skill set. These disagreements occur when there are different ideas, philosophies, faiths or other more ethereal topics being discussed.
Of course, each side still believes their idea or belief is better – and some are indeed more valid than others. Your kids will need to learn some additional skills to navigate these conversations well.
It is often easy enough to write off a relationship with someone whose ideas are vastly different from ours. God has called us to teach everyone the Gospel message though. He wants us to continue to teach those who aren’t Christian about what He wants for them and from them. Yes, there are times when we need to dust off our feet and move on, but often we do that entirely too quickly.
So what are these skills your kids need to minister to and teach those whose ideas are radically different than theirs?
- They need to be solid in their own biblical beliefs. If your children are discussing the big ideas in life, they need to really understand what God has taught. If not, they will be swayed by any argument that sounds somewhat logical – whether it is godly or not.
- They need to make their faith in God their own. Often young people struggle in conversations because they are merely parroting what they have heard their parents say. They need to be given the time and encouragement to consider what they believe, hopefully making their Christian faith their own in the process.
- They need to learn how to state their beliefs clearly. Faith is an interesting thing. We can have it without being able to verbalize it well to others. Your kids need practice thinking about how they might respond to certain questions or challenges to their faith.
- They need to understand logical fallacies and how to avoid using them. Many arguments sound great, but are full of logical fallacies. The ideas may be great, but if they are presented with logical fallacies your kids should learn to stop and examine those ideas more carefully to make absolutely sure they are godly. They should also avoid using logical fallacies themselves – especially when discussing what God has taught. There are better ways to state those beliefs and they need to work to find them.
- They need to understand what God cares about in life. Many so called philosophical arguments – including political ones – boil down to people with the same desires, but different approaches. Usually neither side’s approach is perfect, but people have still chosen a side. Christians waste too much time discussing temporary politics and other similar topics while neglecting to tackle the really important issues God wants us to deal with in life. (This is hard for many Christians to accept. While obviously the laws and philosophies governing any society are important, read the New Testament again while remembering the horrible things the Roman government was doing – including insisting Caesar was god. What does it tell us about the priorities of Jesus and his followers?)
- They need to know how to listen well. When people disagree, they rarely listen to understand. Most people are listening only long enough to consider what they will argue next. Listening to understand may help them realize the motivations and history behind the other person’s belief make changing the ideas easier once they are truly understood.
- They need to learn how to disagree with someone and still leave them feeling loved and respected. This has to be taught very carefully. Too many Christians believe either you have to destroy someone with ungodly ideas or that you can’t even tell the other person their ideas are ungodly because that is unloving. The truth is that you can show someone love and respect for the very fact that they were created and loved by God. If their ideas vary from what God teaches us, it is important to address those differences without destroying the person in the process.
- They need to learn to disagree without making personal attacks, using ugly words or losing their temper. This can take years of practice. It requires a lot of prayer, spiritual maturity and self control. Your children will struggle, but they need to begin practicing it now before bad habits become ingrained.
Teaching your kids to disagree well may make them more effective in completing the good works God has planned for them. It is worth taking the time and effort to help them learn the necessary skills.