Sitting in a counselor’s office as an early 30-something, I remember the psychologist introducing me to the conflict triangle. It appeared that I had been part of one since childhood without even understanding how I was participating. What I discovered was that when the two people in my life were in conflict, I was the emotional support for both of them creating the third part of the triangle. The two of them would come to me individually and share their woes about the other person.
And I’d fix the problem.
I’d empathize with each of their feelings.
And because I knew both sides of the issue, I’d say the words that needed to be said to each of them separately.
Magic! They’d make up and life would go on.
The truth was that neither of these people knew how to resolve conflict in a healthy way.
As parents, it is easy to create a conflict triangle without even realizing it. After all, don’t we want to fix our kid’s problems when they bring them to us? And, as all of us know, sometimes it is easier and quicker to just fix the conflict issue rather than trying to teach and coach our kids how to manage conflict on their own.
Dare 11 in With All Due Respect is all about owning what is ours to own and teaching our kids to own what is theirs.
But how many times do we step in the middle even though our kids have reached the tween, teen, and sometimes 20-something years? We fix it because that’s the way we’ve always handled these situations.
We forget that our role as parents is to teach our kids to start thinking like adults. We need to model healthy relationships, healthy conflict, and healthy boundaries. We need to coach them through the process so they become good at handling their relationships.
Let me share a few examples. Remember, these are tweens, teens, and 20-somethings relationships.
Example 1: Say you get a call from a neighbor who is upset about the job your son did mowing her lawn. She calls you to complain. You can:
- Thank her and go fix the problem.
- Thank her and tell her you’ll make sure your son takes care of it. Then tell your son what she said and make him go fix it. Then follow up with the neighbor to make sure he did it right.
- Thank her and tell her that you are trying to teach your son to take responsibility for his work. Let her know that you are trying to respect your son and will ask him to come see her. Let her know that she’ll need to communicate with him exactly what she needs.
Example 2: Your daughter is upset at something her friend, Misty, is doing that she doesn’t think is a good idea. You know Misty and her mother. You can:
- Call Misty’s mother and raise her awareness of the situation.
- Tell Misty that you know what is going on and try to counsel her the next time she comes over.
- Coach your daughter through ways she can help Misty and let her know you are willing to get involved if she thinks you would be helpful in the situation.
Example 3: Your teens are always arguing over the bathroom before school in the morning. You can:
- Take the door off its hinges.
- Listen to both sides of their argument and make a family rule and enforce it.
- Coach your teens through coming up with their own system to resolve the conflict and let them own their problem.
Example 4: Your husband left a note for your son to complete a chore after school. Your teen has come to you complaining and you recognize that it is too much for your teen to handle given his school work and sports practice. You can:
- Do the chore for him.
- Call your husband and get your teen off the hook.
- Suggest that the teen call his dad and negotiate a reasonable completion time and explain what is already on his schedule. Let your son know that if the conversation doesn’t go well, you are willing to get involved if necessary.
It doesn’t surprise me that most parents will typically solve the problem with either option 1 or 2. It’s easier. It’s quicker. And the problem goes away. Finished.
But what did our teen learn? Mom will fix it.
Now we find ourselves in the middle of an unhealthy conflict triangle continuing to be put in a position of fixing their problems.
“If your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault, between you and him alone. If he listens to you, you have gained your brother.”
Dare you to consider how you can unhook unhealthy conflict triangles and coach your teens through handling their own conflicts. If you do, they’ll become more mature in learning to own what is theirs to own.
“Let go…and Let God”,
Want more ways to think about how you parent and build relationship with your tweens and teens?
Why not grab the book With All Due Respect: 40 Days to a More Fulfilling Relationship with Your Teens and Tweens and go through it. Maybe even ask your friends to join you. It will change the way you look at your role as a parent and how you help your teens mature.
And we promise to make it easy to lead. You don’t need to be a perfect parent; you don’t need to have perfect kids; and you don’t need to have ever led a group before. A Small Group Leader’s Guide is available with questions for group discussion.
It will change your relationships with God, with your spouse, and with your kids.