Peacekeeper or Problem Solver?


Have you ever felt exhausted as a parent? Ever felt like you just can’t put up with anymore from your kids?  Ok, everybody put your hands down. We all get this way at times and in those moments we often take our own time outs. We choose to let some things go, ignore certain behaviors and even put up with nonsense that we otherwise would never tolerate.

This is normal and part of being parents. We are not perfect, can’t always be on top of our game and certainly, at times our children do get the best of us. As long as this is the exception to the rule, we are fine.  The problem comes when instead of being problem solvers, we too often opt for keeping the peace.

Now I realize that some may be confused by this notion that peacekeeping could be bad. I had a parent just last week comment that “Isn’t the goal to have everybody just get along?” The answer is no. The goal is not “keeping the peace“. The goal is the right or healthy resolution of conflict. In fact, in many cases, we the parents have to drive the conflict knowing that it is in the long term best interest of our children to either suffer through a particular situation or experience a certain consequence. We have to remember that with pain comes much learning.

Why is peacekeeping not the goal? To effectively keep the peace in a home, a lot has to be ignored. At best our children are egocentric gimmee machines for much of their time in our homes. The motivation for most of their behavior and choices is what they want and feel. To maintain the peace with them, we can’t say no, have them do chores, make them go to school, eat vegetables, pick up after themselves, go to bed, not hit each other . . .  you get the idea. If we operate in this way, they begin to push further and harder to pursue more wants and desires. The more we work to keep the peace, the more they are convinced that their pursuits are justified. Later in life, anyone who says “No” to them will be considered to be wrong or unreasonable.

“Now wait just a minute” you may say. “No parent is going to let a child just run wild.” While that is usually true, we all have battles in which we give in or just make a decision to calm everything down. We let Johnny watch his show just so he would be quiet. Susie got an extra cookie because we didn’t want to hear her fuss. We made a deal with Billy to let him stay up late so he wouldn’t keep coming out of his room. It is amazing how motivation for a lot of our “peacekeeping” efforts is really based in our own personal comfort. Regardless of what others may say, tolerance is no virtue. To tolerate or put up with something that is wrong, inappropriate, unhealthy, deviant, etc…. is to say that it is OK.

Our response to our children’s misbehavior should be confrontation. It is the healthy resolution of conflict that gives the opportunity for peace, but it does not guarantee it. This is why in the book of James the word is “perseverance.” Rather than put up with things, we are to work through them. Rather than being personally comfortable, we are to rejoice in the current discomfort because it allows us the opportunity to mature. When we put our comfort aside and allow our children to then experience discomfort (at this point neither of us are at peace), we promote growth and maturity. This is how our children learn to handle the stresses in life and grow to be healthy decision makers and problem solvers.

Ask yourself this question: Am I more interested in keeping the peace in my home, or raising healthy kids? Peace at all costs should never be the goal, but peace can be a by-product of the process. In wartime, treaties and disarmament only occur after initial conflict.