Training Peacemakers

Conflict resolution. Adults gulp at the thought of it. The tension of a disagreement--finding just the right time and way to bring it up to the other person. It’s easier to ignore an issue until it becomes unavoidable. But unresolved conflict quickly festers, damaging relationships and hindering growth.

The Bible teaches that peacemaking is an essential practice for those who call God their Father. As Matthew 5:9 reads, "Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called children of God." Peacemaking is no small matter; it requires practice, skill and above all, love. 

Luci Munoz videos a fellow student as he explains the practice of active listening.

Luci Munoz videos a fellow student as he explains the practice of active listening.

At the Academy for G.O.D., students as young as seven sit down twice a week for classes on Conflict Resolution. Initial discussions deal with the term itself. What is a conflict? Is every disagreement a conflict? How do we successfully work towards resolve? Students learn to identify the various emotions and instincts that rise up when conflict occurs. Reactions like defensiveness, embarrassment, and sensitivity can rise up and cause outbursts that quickly damage relationships. Through games and songs, students are taught to identify these emotional responses and navigate them with self-control.

This semester, 8 and 9-year-old students learned a game called “Navigation,” in which students had to make their way through various stations of an obstacle course by avoiding ‘Stubbornness’-- a response that would get them stuck, in the game and in real life! To be stubborn, they learned, is to refuse to listen and resist working through an issue by holding to the position that you’re right and the other is wrong. But to ‘yield’ is to take a humble position by beginning a conversation. It requires effort to take another’s perspective, and listen well so there can be resolve. After the game the kids laughed about how stubbornness was such a bother because it meant elimination from the game. Yielding requires work and humility, but also means you get to keep participating!

Students play the ‘Blanket Statement game’, training their ears to listen for exaggerated statements and enthusiastically throwing a blanket over the culprit!

Students play the ‘Blanket Statement game’, training their ears to listen for exaggerated statements and enthusiastically throwing a blanket over the culprit!

In one dramatic class involving the visual aid of a giant, swirling bed-quilt, students were taught the dangers of “blanket statements.” Blanket statements are exaggerated claims like “He always does this!”, or “She never listens!” Such claims are rarely helpful and in fact incite protest in the other person. After having learned this term, students around school now catch each other using blanket statements and giggle together. “I do it all the time and I didn’t even know!” one student exclaimed. “Look, I just did it again!”  They are learning that such claims are rarely helpful and should be avoided in favor of more accurate observations. “You often act this way and it makes it difficult to work with you.”

Another class favorite was an original skit titled Lynnagin Brady and her Defensive Fences. The poem begins,

“Lynnigan Brady was a good lookin’ lady.
She had lots of friends and she always scored 10’s.
But one problem she had was she built lots of fences
When old Lynn had some conflict she got real defensive.”

The following verses go on to explore how defensiveness stunts a person’s growth, cutting them off from the helpful feedback that friends might have about them. The antidote to defensiveness is to believe the best in your friends. Students memorized the reminder, “Love believes all things.” (1 Cor. 13:7) In a healthy relationship, there is trust in the other person. When we trust one another, obey God’s direction and work towards peace, no conflict can be too great to overcome.

It is never too soon to teach children how to make peace. Strong relationships are the building blocks to a healthy life. Learning to preserve those relationships and grow through them is an invaluable skill! We are thrilled to train up a generation of young people of skilled peacemakers!