The modern version of the playground fight is happening all across America in TV rooms and bedrooms harboring players of action/adventure games.
Jimmy: (bluntly) “Oh, you jerk! Why’d you kill me! Now I’m going to go into the building and get more ammo!” (Now absorbed again into the game and away from any conscious understanding of the social consequences coming his way).
Johnny: (offended) Jerk? You think I’m a jerk? I thought we were friends!
Jimmy: (still distracted) “What do you mean ‘jerk’? I never called you a jerk!
Johnny: (with righteous indignation) You liar! Yes, you did!
He said, he said. Distracted communication during video game play leads to misunderstanding and name calling, anger and confusion, and loss of civility and friendliness. “Headset friendships” are prone to such miscommunication.
On the playground an adult may notice the brewing problem and step in to mediate. If you have designed the game play area in your home so that you may remain actively parenting during that time, you also have a chance to mediate. Unpleasant exchanges often rear suddenly. Corral them firmly in your hands. Turn them into real teaching moments. Help your child turn an obtuse communication style into one that is more aware. Or a sense of righteous indignation into a more forgiving stance. Share with them the words to say to diffuse a situation in a grace-filled manner.
You may have originally planned on a “better” use of your time just then. But, really, there isn’t a better use of your time–unless it is saving the family kitty from being drowned in the toilet by your 2-year old. When communication conflicts start like Jimmy and Johnny’s did, you have the perfect opportunity to train in civility and Christ-like behavior. Granted, the blustery situation may abate of its own accord in short order, maybe even without serious injury between friends on that occasion, but the child will miss your valuable training and a compass for improved communication.
Consider these steps you can take; you may have found yourself taking them already.
(1) Sit near the action and listen. Notice areas where your child needs correction. Since All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness (2 Tim 3:16), draw upon Scripture for the best admonition for the moment.
(2) Coach your child as the conflict ensues. He can mute his headphone while you instruct him to change his tone of voice, word choice or argument angle. Proverbs 15:1-2 tells us
1 A gentle answer turns away wrath,
but a harsh word stirs up anger.
2 The tongue of the wise adorns knowledge,
but the mouth of the fool gushes folly.
I once spent thirty minutes working through a complicated he said, he said, and it ended well because I took the time to listen, talk, and train. I offered my son questions that impelled him to consider the answers–answers that would lead him forward to a conciliatory or cooperative outcome. Through this process he began integrating the skill of asking himself questions–Is it possible I misunderstood? Is it possible I didn’t hear him correctly? Is it possible I am reading into what was said? Is it possible I’m overreacting? Is it possible my friend is hurting about something else and I need to be patient? The list is nearly endless.
(3) Be willing to listen to your child’s argument justification and the solution he brings to the moment. Push him gently toward biblical behavioral choices. Your concordance will lead you to verses useful in these moments, such as those under ANGER, ANXIOUS, and AVOID. And those are just the A’s.
(4) If your child won’t attempt to understand or address the problem of his own accord, calmly tell him he must stop playing if he can’t be friendly, reasonable, and forgiving.
(5) If the mix-up occurred through a flurry of Sent messages instead of through headphones, read his Sent messages with him. You can learn a lot about his style of problem resolution and counsel him accordingly. You may also want to read with him his Received messages and help him interpret them. He may be misunderstanding them or reading too much into them. Help him recognize the point at which a misunderstanding can’t possibly be relived and/or undone and that forgiveness is needed. For if you forgive others their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you (Matthew 6:14). Help him grasp the humility required to forgive and move on.
When you stand beside your child, helping him resolve his online interpersonal conflicts, you teach him biblical principles of humility, forgiveness and love, and in the process you are also training the child up so that he can learn a Godly style of communicating.
Now that that’s done, it might be a good time to check on the cat.