Three tips for managing family conflict as a solo parent

Written by Clarissa Moll
Published on May 27, 2022

“I’m not Judge Judy!” I exclaim to my kids, and they all roll their eyes. 

They know I don’t like negotiating their arguments. Since becoming a solo parent, there are few things I’ve found more exhausting than brokering peace deals and adjudicating petty squabbles. Managing the conflicts of four young kids can be enough to wear you down. 

Sometimes it takes the wisdom of Solomon to navigate our children’s disputes with each other. How much harder when we are parenting alone without a sounding board! We trust that God will equip us to navigate conflict and discipline as the only adult in our households. 

His strength upholds us and gives us wisdom. Still, you might find, from time to time, that you could use a refresher course on conflict management. Consider these three simple ideas to help fortify you for managing this important work in your own family. 

3 ideas to help you manage your family

1. Know thyself

We look at our crying 7-year-old and ask, “Do you feel tired?” We know she stayed up late the night before—her bandwidth has run thin. 

Questions like these encourage our kids to pay attention to their bodies, to become aware of their emotional rhythms. So much of our work as parents involves assisting our children with understanding themselves. When it comes to managing conflict, we need to remember to practice what we preach! 

As you listen and respond to arguments in your home, be sure to regularly take space to know yourself. Be aware of your energy level and emotional reserves. Are you too tired for a conversation? Schedule a later time to discuss the issue. Is it a pressing problem that needs your care? Take a breath, step away, and whisper a prayer before you speak. 

If we’re honest—arguments trigger deeply rooted emotions and our parental instinct to fix. Authentic self-assessment allows us to face and care for these emotions and relinquish these impulses. 

We can acknowledge our finitude with grace instead of throwing up our hands in exasperation. “I can’t do it all!” can become a prayer of dependence on God instead of an exclamation at the end of our ropes. 

2. Major on the majors

We’ve all brokered peace over Legos and Barbies while frustrated thoughts run through our heads. Save your guns for the big ones. It isn’t a hill to die on

Unfortunately, many of the conflicts that occur in our homes feel like big deals to our kids. It’s our job as parents to help them learn discernment about what matters most. 

We can model this discernment by allowing conflicts to become teaching moments. Are emotions running high? Take space away from the problem and return to it when all parties can engage in more thoughtful ways. 

If someone brings up old hurts, guide the conversation to return to the present moment. Practice reflective listening and compassionate responses. While this might seem heavy handed for a stuffed animal dispute, you’ll be surprised how quickly your children will see that too! 

As you help your kids learn healthy modes of conflict-resolution, they will learn to naturally focus on the problems that are most important. They’ll learn to identify minor issues from major ones and, in the course of discussion, will learn a process they can use when big problems arise. 

3. Set the tone

Nothing escalates a conversation like a raised voice. Your child comes to you crying, and you talk more loudly over the lament. Your boys are yelling at each other, and the room’s emotional temperature causes your own to rise. Like a chameleon, you find yourself changing color according to the tone of the argument that stands before you. 

We’re adults. We know better than to fall into this trap, but when conflicts arise it’s an easy fail. 

To navigate difficulties successfully and teach our kids to do the same, we must model the behavior we hope they’ll adopt. We must be committed to setting the tone. 

Keep your cool. Be slow to speak and quick to forgive. Don’t be hasty in passing judgment. 

We know God’s commands about our speech through the well-worn verses in Proverbs. Our children look to us not just to negotiate their problems but to model for them how to do it themselves. We know their eyes are always on us. Why not use conflict to show them how the gospel can change even the hardest circumstances? 

Peace and understanding

To be successful adults, our children must learn how to navigate conflict in ways that make for peace and greater understanding. That discernment begins at home. 

Even when you’re the only adult in your household, you can guide your children toward speech that edifies and reconciliation that restores relationships. 

You may not wear a black judge’s robe, but your kids will still look to you for wisdom and guidance. 


Consider a few extra resources:

 

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Clarissa Moll

Clarissa Moll is an award-winning writer and podcaster who helps grieving people thrive after loss. Clarissa’s writing has appeared in Christianity Today, The Gospel Coalition, RELEVANT, Modern Loss, Grief Digest and more. She is the author of Beyond the Darkness: A Gentle Guide for Walking with Grief and Thriving After Loss. Clarissa is the cohost Christianity Today’s “Surprised by Grief” podcast and hosts the weekly Hope*Writers podcast, The Writerly Life. Her free 7-day devotional “Disarming Grief’s Myths” offers honest, soulful grief support.

Read more about Clarissa

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