There’s a phrase that is oft repeated in conflict resolution and Christian circles alike: “A soft answer turns away wrath.” It’s from Proverbs 15:1, and it’s a tiny six-word sentence but one of the most powerful (i.e., effective) approaches to parenting (in particular) and dealing with people (in general). However, it is, admittedly, one of the most difficult things to implement in one’s life because it requires a myriad of skills and life tools like self-control, patience, understanding, wisdom, love, humility, forgiveness, and faith. No small order!
When our kids are fighting or having meltdowns, it’s tempting to use our temper to dominate the situation (akin to the I’ll-give-you-something-to-fight/cry-about philosophy). If we just make our voice the loudest, then we win, right? Well, not really. One of the major points to parenting is to help our children learn how to solve their own problems and to guide them in how to regulate their own emotions and to model for them how to respond constructively to life’s obstacles. (Again, no small order!)
So if we can picture the task before us (deflecting anger with a gentle response instead of harsh one) as going under the wave of discord instead of trying to dominate it, then we will be much more poised to dial down the negative energy instead of adding to it. Contributing to the contentiousness is such a common (and fixable) error in parenting because many parents think that that’s what good parenting is (probably because their parents thought the same). Not only is it not good parenting, but it’s a lousy way to be as a person.
Another way to envision this task is to view it (the inevitable conflict of family life, etc.) like a blanket you pull over yourself instead of stand on. Not that you are taking upon yourself the conflict of your family but that you are seeking to create space to ease the tension, not make more of it.
These analogies are limited, I know, but they have worked for me and they have been the best way that I have been able to articulate for myself how to consistently succeed at resolving [the seemingly never-ending, nerve-wracking] conflict in the daily world of parenting.
Final words: we aim to dial down the conflict, defuse aggression, disarm contentiousness, smooth out the tension, put at ease our restless family members, soothe their hurts, and calm their fears.
As we seek to more fully embody child-friendly parenting, let us incorporate more of those soft answers (gentle responses) that are known to turn away wrath (deflect anger). In this way, we can know that we aren’t adding fuel to the fire by being reactive when it’s much more helpful to be thoughtfully responsive to whatever it is that we encounter in our day.