I have long been a grateful recipient of the work and ministry of Ken Sande with Peacemaker Ministries. He and his wife’s Young Peacemaker curriculum made a big impact when my husband taught that to our children when they were younger. Learning to recognize conflict and then apply biblical principles to resolve conflict in relationships has benefitted all of us. By God’s grace, we are better listeners, have become quicker to confess our own contribution to conflict, and have cultivated a growing desire to seek the best interests of others. Naturally, we don’t always do this well; we’re still being transformed by the work of God’s Spirit in our lives, but I praise Him for this beautiful fruit of homeschooling my children.
My appreciation for Ken and Peacemaker Ministries has only grown exponentially as I heard him speak at the HSLDA National Leaders Conference here in Orlando this past week. His thoughts on practicing relational wisdom with one another have much application for us in our parenting, especially in the teen years. I would like to share a few of his thoughts with you, in the hopes that you might be encouraged in your relationship with your children:
- Growing in relational wisdom is not only commended by God, but is commanded by Him in His Word. Unlike IQ and personality which do not noticeably change after the teen years, our relational wisdom can improve significantly with intentional effort on our part. Some verses which address the need for relational wisdom are found in Romans 12:2, 2 Corinthians 3:18, 2 Peter 1:3-7, and in Ephesians 4:22-24 which exhorts us to “be renewed in the spirit of your mind, and put on the new self, which in the likeness of God has been created in righteousness ad holiness of the truth.”
- How do we grow in relational wisdom? Sande challenged us to practice penetrating questions of our children to help “cut through the fog of emotions and controlling desires,” and then look for and apply “biblically faithful, gospel-centered answers.” (See Philippians 2:3-4) These questions fit into what Sande calls the “SOG Plan” (with a smile he shared he developed this when his own children became teenagers!)*
- Self-awareness—this calls for questions like, “What am I feeling? Why am I feeling this? What is controlling my heart right now? What am I tempted to do in response? What will happen if I do it?”
- Other=awareness—this requires us to ask questions like, “How are others feeling because of my actions? How am I hurting them? How could I instead bless them?”
- God-awareness—some helpful questions to ask are, “Where is God in this? What is He trying to do in and through me? How does the gospel apply right now? How can I show that I love and trust Jesus?”
Not only do questions like these help our young adults identify what contributes to conflict and break-down in communication with each other or with us, it helps us as parents do the same. God’s grace is there for us if we humbly ask ourselves these same questions when we find we are angry or frustrated with a child, or are tempted to respond to a conflict in fear or an attempt to control. Our inclination to just “deal with it,” can be replaced with a prayerful attempt to search out our own hearts first, then draw out their hearts and seek their best interest (See Philippians 2:3-4)
Whenever I hear transformational teaching like this, God, who regularly has a divine sense of humor, gives me an opportunity to practice what I just learned. Not an hour after listening to Ken talk about growing in relational wisdom did I encounter one of my children who exhibited a proud attitude toward me, and did not respond positively to my attempts to engage in friendly conversation. Rather than ask her questions that would help her search her own heart and encourage her in the gospel, I told her she was being negative towards me. My use of the word “negative” was not helpful to our communication and she told me so.
I was tempted to defend myself when the Holy Spirit convicted me and helped me to just admit she was right. Telling her she was being negative didn’t help get to the heart of her problem. Instead, it threatened to push her away from me, and made it more difficult for me to communicate my and God’s love for her. After asking for her forgiveness, the Lord helped her to hear my genuine care for her feelings before proceeding to identify and discuss what was prompting her disrespect and negativity.
God loves to help us! His promise of grace and help in time of need applies to our relationships with each other. Furthermore, the gospel is thankfully not just a one-time message for salvation; it applies to our whole life as a follower of Christ. Experiencing conflict in relationships is inevitable, but as we seek the Lord for grace to walk in humility, the gospel gives us the tools to walk in love and grow in relational wisdom with one another, including our children, to the praise of His glory.
There's no place like home,