For anyone that thinks homeschoolers don't have to learn to deal with conflict let me enlighten you. We do. Tonight at gymnastics we had a mandatory meeting for the parents and the kids were left to play in the "lobby" (which is open to the floor). For the most part they were all exceptionally well behaved! I was quite impressed. It seems however, as it happens, I missed some conflict that was happening. My youngest tells me that one of the girls spent a lot of time calling people "butt head" and being generally rude to her. We have had minor issues like that before so I have already started coming up with a strategy on how to deal with it, but my daughter is extremely tender hearted and as per usual, her initial response was to burst into tears because she couldn't understand why the girl did not want to be her friend. So how do we deal with this?
1. I validate my child's feelings. I let her know that she is right to be upset and that the things that were said were hurtful and mean. I want her to understand that as small as it seems to me, I know that it is big for her. I also want her to know that she can come to me and be taken seriously.
2. We evaluate whether she could have misunderstood. Sometimes kids get going in their games and get excited and lose control. It happens. In boys we see them start off playing with their action figures, suddenly the action figures are fighting with each other and the next thing you know the boys are rough housing and someone gets hurt. No one really meant to be ugly, but children aren't known for practicing self-control and they definitely don't always think through the consequences of their actions.
3. I give her an appropriate response. Our "canned" response is to look at the person being ugly and say firmly, "I want to be your friend but you may not treat me ugly. If you are going to be mean I will go get my mother/father/whoever is in charge. Can we play together nicely and be friends?" If they say no, they are to say okay and walk away. If the meanness continues they then are to immediately come get me. What I want to do is teach them to have grace and forgiveness, but that they do not have to be someone's doormat.
4. Let them know that it is okay if they aren't friends with everyone, but that they must extend Godly love no matter what.
5. If it escalates to the point of needing to talk to the other child's parent, I always go there without her first. We all do it, we find out our child might be misbehaving and we get a little defensive when it is addressed. I want to make sure that my daughter is not subjected to grown up bullies just as much as I want to shield her from the child ones.
6. Hitting, kicking, biting, throwing things, etc are NEVER acceptable and they are to come get me at once!
7. Model the appropriate response to conflict. Nothing teaches a child better, how to handle conflicting personalities than to see their parent handle it gracefully.
We are never going to be friends with everyone, but we can show our children that we can still be Godly and loving even to people who are mean to us.