“Communications” was a required course my freshman year in College.  I wish I had been given this course in elementary school!  It taught listening skills and the rules for fighting fair.  I had never heard of such a thing.  In my family, we just fought.  Anything that came to mind flung out of our mouths with the hope of hitting pay dirt.  Anything was game, we yelled, we slapped, we cried. It was brutal and I still ache from the wounds delivered there.

In my class, we watched movies of married couples fighting.  Some were loud but productive, some were quiet and cruel.  We learned it was as much content as delivery and that the goal was to communicate not “win”. We developed a list of effective tools and a list of destructive behaviors that has served me and my children for a lifetime.

When my children were old enough to start fighting, I started to teach the tools I had learned in my communications class.  My children are all grown now and they still like each other (a thing that is harder than loving sometimes) which is the greatest testimony of their learning to fight fair.

Here is a short list of the things I taught:

  • Violence is not the answer (I believe there is a time when children should defend themselves but lashing out physically is never tolerated)
  • Respect (Though we may disagree, I can still choose to be respectful)
  • Own your Own stuff first (Usually in a fight there is wrong on both sides.  The best way to put a pin in someone’s furry is to tell them that they are right.  Be quick to apologize when you can. Don’t over do it. Be truthful, but own all that is yours to own first, and then present your offense.)
  • Never say never or always (blanket statements like, “You ALWAYS do this”, and “you NEVER do that” are statements that can not be discussed only defended against)
  • Use “I feel” statements instead of “you” statements. (“I feel angry when you flee the room in a fight” instead of , “You always leave the room when we fight.” One is a position of vulnerability which is approachable.  The other is an accusation which drives people away.
  • Listen first, talk second.  (God gave you two ears and one mouth; use them in proportion to supply.  Listen twice as long as you talk. Listen to hear and understand.  Don’t be developing your next argument while the other is talking.)
  • Eye contact is important.  (it lets the person know you are listening)
  • “Always be ready to believe the best of every person.” 1 Corinthians 13:7b  AMV (It is very important to come into conflict believing in the good in each other.  We may not be presenting our good side but seeing the good side is vital to communication.  Call out to the good in each other.)

It takes practice.  We did exercises in class to sharpen our listening skills and to practice “I feel” statements. It was awkward at first because we had no experience at it. We messed up a lot at first but we slowly gained proficiency. Parents must practice what we preach in more ways than one, but the benefits of learning and teaching how to fight fair are way worth the trouble.

Ruth Ann Lea