This is the third post in a three pare series
D.R.A.M.A. Unending, unfathomable, exhausting, seemingly never-ending, harmful drama. That is exactly what is going on in the lives of so many teenagers. They constantly have to check their phones to see if someone is “Sub-tweeting*” them on twitter, posting a horrible update about them on Facebook, sending nasty texts to everyone they know, tagging them in a bullying photo on Instagram, etc. Teenagers are stuck having a majority of their conflict on the different social media mediums. The problem is, that isn’t true conflict. People are infinitely bolder when they get to text someone something, instead of saying it to their face. The get-punched-in-the-face chances go down significantly when that option isn’t even on the table!
As a youth pastor, I get the opportunity to deal with many a teenage friendship that is on the brink because teenagers literally have no idea how to have constructive confrontation with each other. That has to stop. We have raised a generation of people that have no idea how to have conflict. When they get into a confrontation they jump to one of two things; first, they run away from conflict all together, and take up their battle on social media. Second, they resort to juvenile and unproductive name-calling. The problem is that neither of those two things actually clear up the issue. Sure, we may be able to have a disagreement on twitter, but does that usually clear up the issue? No. Usually it makes the conflict worse. It throws gasoline on the fire of confrontation.
As parents we have to begin to train up our kids in proper conflict resolution. We need to not only model for them Godly conflict in our marriage, in our relationship with our kids, and in our friendships, but we need to train them how to have good conflict with their peers. Far too numerous are the times that parents don’t actually help bring about reconciliation, but they breathe gasoline infused words onto the fire of teenage conflict. Your kid is never going to desire to deal with conflict. If they do, that may be a concern for you. You will have to explain to your student that conflict is a reality, and they must learn to deal with it for them to mature as an adult. There will be many times that you will have to force them to have Godly confrontation.
The Bible knew that conflict was going to be inevitable, so it laid out the groundwork for good conflict. In Matthew 18, it says that the first step in conflict is to go straight to that person. As the first step in a process, you would think that it would be the easiest…its not. This is the area that teenagers struggle the most. They love talking to other people about their issues. They will tell all their friends, their twitter followers, even their parents, before they will go to another person they have an offense with and clear it up. As a parent, we need to help quench that. When we hear our kids talking about an issue they have, we need to be the first person to say “hey, go talk to them.” What your teenager will probably do is say that it’s just not that big of a deal and they are over it. They aren’t. Teenagers are so afraid of conflict that they would rather suppress their feelings than deal with their issue with someone. Most conflict will be over when we force our kids to grow a backbone and go straight to the person they have conflict with.
Matthew 18 goes on and says that if going to the person doesn’t work, then take two other people with you. Honestly, if your kid will talk to the person face-to-face, I would doubt that they would ever have to go here. Lets say that they do though. The key in taking another person with you is picking the right person. It wouldn’t make sense for you, as their parent, to go with them in their fight with another teenager. You are not an impartial observer. You have a vested interest in the conflict. They need to get someone that is semi-impartial that can help them walk through their issue. A small group leader is a good choice, as is a youth pastor, or an older friend of both of the teenagers.
Matthew 18 ends by saying that if neither of the first two attempts at reconciliation work then go to the church. This is a last resort. If it needs to be done though, call the youth pastor or senior pastor, and ask if he can help mediate the conflict. It is something that we as pastors get to do frequently. Don’t let it get to this point though!
I encourage you to be the “fire extinguisher.” Your kid needs you to be the one who calms them down and then shows them how to deal with the issues going on in their heart. Walk them step-by-step through the process, and I guarantee you will be able to see a change in the way your teenager approaches conflict.
*A Sub-tweet is a tweet where the sender is obviously talking about another person, and it’s obvious to everyone in the whole wide world (and maybe people from other worlds.) The tweets are almost always harmful/slanderous in nature. For example: Lets say that my wife decided that she wasn’t going to cook dinner one night. A sub-tweet that could be sent from me might say @geoffreyturner “It sure would be nice to have someone that would love me enough to make me some dinner. Instead I guess I’ll just eat Ramen Noodles.” Keep watch for an article on the phenomenon that is Twitter on radicalparents.com.