Families, communities, and nations are stronger when individuals work at resolving conflict before it turns into contention. Conflict is a normal part of life, but contention – particularly within a family – is a terrible thing. According to Elder M. Russell Ballard of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles of The Church of Jesus Christ, the family is one of Satan’s favorite targets:
[Satan works to
drive a wedge of disharmony between a father and a mother. He entices children
to be disobedient to their parents…. That’s all it takes, because Satan knows
that the surest and most effective way to disrupt the Lord’s work is to diminish
the effectiveness of the family and the sanctity of the home.”
Ballard encouraged parents by saying, “the irony of being parents is that we
tend to get good at it after our children are grown.” There is much truth in
this statement. However, Elder Ballard continued by teaching the importance of
councils have always been needed. They are, in fact, eternal. We belonged to a
family council in the premortal existence when we lived with our heavenly
parents as their spirit children.
family council, when conducted with love and with Christlike attributes, will counter
the impact of modern technology that often distracts us from spending quality
time with each other and also tends to bring evil right into our homes.
remember that family councils are different from family home evening….
I believe there are at least four types of
a general family council consisting of the entire family.
an executive family council consisting of a mother and father.
a limited family council consisting of parents and one child.
a one-on-one family council consisting of one parent and one child….
A family council that is patterned after
the councils in heaven, filled with Christlike love, and guided by the Lord’s
Spirit will help us to protect our family from distractions that can steal our
precious time together and protect us from the evils of the world.
Combined with prayer, a family council
will invite the presence of the Savior, as He promised: “For where two or three
are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them.” (Matthew
18:20). Inviting the Spirit of the Lord to be part of your family council brings
blessings beyond description.
Finally, please remember that a family
council held regularly will help us spot family problems early and nip them in
the bud; councils will give each family member a feeling of worth and
importance; and most of all they will assist us to be more successful and happy
in our precious relationships, within the walls of our homes.
In an article titled “Three Ways to Keep Conflict from Becoming Contention,” Ryan Morgenegg shared some thoughts given in a talk during BYU Education Week by Kevin P. Miller.
Inevitably, with the relationships
developed in life there will be some challenges and disappointments….
Brother Miller shared a quote from Brigham
Young to explain his position: “In my experience I have learned that the
greatest difficulty that exists in the little bickerings and strifes of man
with man, woman with woman, children with children … arises from the want of
rightly understanding each other” (
Brother Miller’s three ways to keep
conflict from escalating into contention are as follow:
working on relationships with other individuals, it is important to realize
that the two people involved are constantly making a series of deposits and
withdrawals, he said. “The currency of these relationships is trust.”
certain deposit or even the exact same deposit might have a different value for
each individual, said Brother Miller. It’s good to find out what deposits are
most valued by the other person. Is it time, affection, kind words, or other
things that are most valued?
Recognizing that conflict is part of being a leader is important, said Brother Miller. He then shared a quote from Warren Bennis, noted for his work in leadership studies:
“Leaders do not avoid,
repress, or deny conflict, but rather see it as an opportunity. Once everyone
has come to see it that way, they can exchange their combative posture for a
creative stance, because they don’t feel threatened, they feel challenged.”
conflict does arise, remembering some guiding principles can help prevent the
conflict from becoming a contention. “Don’t destroy a relationship for the sake
of being right,” said Brother Miller. “Maintain the self-esteem of the other
person. Focus on the problem and not on the person. Don’t label them. Define
the problem and clarify the expectations. Explore alternatives and create a
win-win situation rather than thinking that a single person has to win.”
an example of a win-win situation, Brother Miller shared the story of a mother
of several children who was becoming resentful about cleaning up after dinner
because it was time consuming and difficult. A solution was needed to avoid
conflict and diffuse the growing contention in the home.
said the mother invited her children to clean up after meals in exchange for
some money that would be set aside for a once-a-month outing. Whatever money
was earned that month, the family could go out and eat at a restaurant or enjoy
a treat together. If the children failed to help, the mother was given the
daily allotment of money to use as she desired.
Miller explained that this win-win situation was good for each person in the
relationship. He said that most nights the children, working together, had
things cleaned up in about five minutes. She would just sit at the table with a
huge smile on her face and watch them go to work.
A parent education lesson taught the following principles for resolving conflict: (1) Approach parent-child problems with a Christlike attitude. (2) Listen to understand. (3) Refuse to argue. (4) Follow scriptural guidelines for reproving children. (5) Selectively arbitrate conflicts between children. You can learn more about these five principles – as well as other parent education skills at this site.
The Lord does not warn us about
conflict because He understands that it is part of life. However, He does warn
us about contention. We read in : “Behold, this is not my doctrine, to stir up
the hearts of men with anger, one against another; but this is my doctrine,
that such things should be done away.”
Conflict does not always lead to
contention. Parents and other family members can learn how to resolve conflict
and maintain peace in the family. These same individuals can be leaders in
resolving conflict in communities and nations.