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.”
Elder 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 family counsels.
“Family 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.
A 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.
Please remember that family councils are different from family home evening….
I believe there are at least four types of family councils:
· First, a general family council consisting of the entire family.
· Second, an executive family council consisting of a mother and father.
· Third, a limited family council consisting of parents and one child.
· Fourth, 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” ( 4:370) ….
Brother Miller’s three ways to keep conflict from escalating into contention are as follow:
When 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.”
A 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.”
If 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.”
As 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.
He 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.
Brother 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.