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How you handle problems matters

Last night a parent contacted me with a concern. If being honest, there's always a tinge of nerves as a school administrator when a parent reaches out after hours. You hope there isn't a new problem you have to deal with. In this instance, indeed there was a problem. Yet, as I reflect on the experience, it was so noteworthy that it had to be shared. The parent's initial contact was a kind, but concerned inquiry and not an accusation. The parent basically said, "My child said XYZ. Is that true?" I honestly didn't know the answer and would have to check with staff and teachers to find out about the situation. Upon investigation, I discovered it was true. A member of our team had made a mistake. After discovering this, I could only reach out to the parent, share what I found out, apologize, and make assurances for the future. The parent, still not happy most likely that a mistake had been made responded with grace and kindness. It was such a relief and it made dealing with an issue a surprisingly pleasant situation. It reminded me of God's expectations of how we handle difficult situations. At times in life, I've handled them poorly but hope to offer God a response that He's pleased with.

The Bible tells us that if we have an issue with someone else that we should go to them with a heart set on reconciliation and solving the problem (Matt 18). We should also inquire first and not assume the worst. Assume that the other person might have meant well, could have just made a mistake, or that there's more to the story than you know. Challenge yourself and ask yourself if your hope is to resolve it and walk in peace or to simply "have your say" and be confrontational. Paul told the Corinthians that there shouldn't be unresolved issues and disputes among Christians; that instead how we resolve issues with one another should be a witness to our Christian faith.

It is important to remember that our children are watching. How do they see us handle difficult situations. Do we overreact? Do they see us be thoughtful, careful, and make sincere efforts toward peace? Do we give teachers, coaches, administrators, and others in their lives the benefit of the doubt? Do we recognize that our kids may sometimes not see the full picture, have an accurate view or attitude, or that they even may be giving us a wrong impression? Do they see that we are peacemakers (Matthew 5:9)?

The greatest way our children learn how to cope with difficulties is by watching us. Let them see us respond well. If they are angry and hurt, try to help them see things from a different perspective. Don't let them provoke you to anger or impulsive action. Let them see that you listen, you care, but that your chief aim is to please God in the situation at hand (2 Cor. 5:9). How we handle disagreements with our spouses, family members, and people in their lives shapes how they will handle these things in the future.

Children see plenty how to blow up, get angry, sulk, be passive-aggressive, and to just quit and walk out. They watch this happen in their homes between parents, at church when there's a problem, on sports teams, with school problems, or even on the job with an employer. What they don't see is the beauty of a right response. We have the honor of being trusted by the Lord to show them the right way.

Unfortunately, we have probably blown it before and may do so again. When we have responded poorly go to them and repent. Tell them, "You know I overreacted and got too angry and didn't handle that whole situation in a way that would please the Lord. I was harder on other people than I want God to be on me. I didn't try to find out their side of the story or try to understand their heart. I didn't make an effort for real peace and resolution. I could have tried harder for that. I got caught up into the drama and I'm sorry." It's amazing what repentance can build in your relationship with your children.

None of us can change yesterday but we each have today and can choose differently today. We can choose to seek peace, instead of stir drama. We can choose to be understanding instead of confrontational. We can seek to strengthen Christian relationships through forgiveness, friendship, and love in a way that honors Christ. We can show them how to listen to someone you disagree with, hear their heart and thoughts, and find good resolutions. You can teach them how to forgive and not just blow up or walk out.

Thankfully, God's mercies are new every day. Parenting is challenging but God's grace is sufficient. Parenting is also an amazing opportunity to partner with God. He is with us and He is faithful. So to the parent who had a complaint last night, thank you. Thank you for handling it well!

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