If you are prone to ignoring situations in hopes they’ll go away, here are my thoughts on why brushing things under the rug doesn’t help, but hurts.
When you hear the word conflict, what do you think? Do you think of fighting, dissension, and drama? Or is it a neutral word? A normal part of life?
“Peace is not absence of conflict, it is the ability to handle conflict by peaceful means.” Ronald Reagan
Some people avoid conflict like the plague and others seem to enjoy it. If I’m honest, I’m probably the latter. Not that I think, “Oh yeah, baby, I’m getting in a fight today…” but I don’t feel threatened by a serious conversation, a scuffle, or a come to Jesus meeting.
And resolution of conflict is more important to me than the appearance of peace.
I like to write about mental and emotional health, and the ability to resolve conflict instead of ignoring it is a very valuable skill our children need to learn. But unfortunately (or perhaps fortunately) they can’t learn it from us if we don’t do it.
Here are some concepts I believe we should all practice and we should teach our children!
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1. Keep short accounts
We need to keep short accounts with those we are in relationship with. What does that mean? Basically, we should resolve issues as they come instead of letting a debt rack up. You deal with situations as they arise instead of logging them all in a black book that you pull out later to use as evidence against someone. If there’s an argument, fight or issue, deal with it then.
In college I had a theory about why so many people broke up and one person moved on within weeks. My theory was that one individual was keeping a long account and had, little by little unbeknownst to the other party, been getting over them for a long time. When there was finally a straw that broke the camel’s back (or a drop that overflowed the bowl, as they say in Italian) the long account keeper was out of there with no regrets. The other party wanted to work it out but there was no chance. Why? Long accounts.
2. Banish “get over it” from your vocab
One surefire way to cause others around you to brush things under the rug is to forbid them from sharing how they feel. Now, this doesn’t mean everyone can spout out their venom and infect the whole household anytime they have a grievance. But it does mean they are allowed to share their feelings. They can explain their emotions. They can vent in a healthy way.
Probably more importantly, stop telling yourself to get over it. Now, it’s important we don’t cross over into self-pity because that’s unhealthy for everyone. But if you have an ongoing issue with someone you are in constant contact with (spouse, relative, co-worker) then saying “Oh I just need to get over it” will (a) not work, (2) only harm yourself, and (d) encourage others to ignore your feelings.
Emotions are a H U G E part of a young child’s life. These “I Am Feeling” cards will reduce tantrums, meltdowns, and help your little one learn emotional awareness.Learn More
3. Pretending is not resolving
My husband and I had to figure out this stuff when we got married. He wanted to go to bed and pretend nothing ever happened. I wanted to fist fight until there was a winner. Unless I was the loser. Then I wanted to keep fist fighting until I won.
Sometimes situations arise that clearly need resolution. Or at the least, a heartfelt conversation. Of course it’s possible to just act like it never happened, but that is not reality and it doesn’t work. Painful things don’t go away because you ignore them. If they did, dentists would go out of business. Negative situations cause negative emotions. Seeds of doubt. Roots of bitterness. New and deep fears take hold. It is important – vital really – to everyone’s emotional health to work it out and not brush it under the rug.
4. Emotional health breeds self-confidence
If your child is scared of healthy conflict then they will be insecure on a regular basis as they grow up and go off into the world. Teachers won’t always like their papers. Friends will be jerks. Bosses will ask challenging questions and professors will give constructive (but not always) criticism. We don’t want to raise children who are afraid of conflict!
There will always be conflict, and teaching children to solve conflict and issues in healthy ways will put them at an advantage as they go through life. Their relationships will be healthier and they’ll be more self-confident because they believe in their ability to get through. They aren’t threatened if one person doesn’t like them. They know they are up to challenges.
5. It fills up the emotional basement
I’ve written about it before and will again. Having a full emotional basement (or stuffing all your feelings regularly) will only result in an emotional overload for you. If children or adults don’t feel they are able to express their feelings, they’ll bottle them up. Bottle them up for too long and they explode. Avoiding conflict and brushing things under the rug does not mean they’ll go away. It just means they’ll come back later, but with firepower behind them.
Next time a negative situation or issue arises and you’re tempted to brush it under the rug, stop.
Don’t brush it under the rug where it’s still there, but just hidden.
Brush it into the trash and then take the trash out.