This morning I was watching a weather report and the reporter was talking about a big storm that was brewing in the mid-west. When they showed a satellite view you could see something big was happening. If you lived in that part of the country a weather report can warn you of a problem heading your way and you have some time to take action.
Sometimes as leaders, WE are the satellite view, we can see a problem in a small group or with an individual student starting to brew and how we handle that can be the difference between rain showers or a huge thunderstorm. If you see an issue starting between two members in your small group you can either ignore it and hope it goes away or you can sit the two students down and address the problem. I think you all will agree with me, it almost never just goes away on its own.
I have dealt with conflict between two students by sitting them both down in a room and I act as the moderator. I tell them what I have noticed and tell them that now is the time for us to correct this before the divide between them gets even bigger. This is also the biblical way of handing conflict. Once you get them talking you usually can just sit back and let the problem work itself out between them. If the students are not ready or willing to talk I ask open ended questions of them to get them talking. I ask questions that can’t be answered with “yes” or “no”. These type of questions will stimulate the discussion. The key is to get them talking. Usually the problem is something tiny that got blown way out of proportion.
What if you see a problem with students who are not in your small group? If I know who their small group leader is I’ll take it to them and advise them of what I see. If it needs to be dealt with immediately, I’ll step in and do what I mentioned above, but when it’s over I’ll make sure and bring their leader up to speed with what happened so they can follow up and make sure the issue does not reappear.
Here’s the bottom line, just sitting back and doing nothing almost never works. Problems are just allowed to gain momentum and can quickly snowball out of control. We also need to make leaders out of these students we have in our care, and showing them the best way to address conflict is one way we help pass leadership skills on to the next generation.
How do you address conflict with students?