S.T.E.P. vs P.E.S.T. Handling Family Conflict

S.T.E.P. vs P.E.S.T. Handling Family Conflict, from The DIY Guide to Building a Family That Lasts, by Dr. Gary Chapman and Dr. Shannon Warden (Northfield, 2019)

High 5 communication model

High 5 communication model from The DIY Guide to Building a Family That Lasts, by Dr. Gary Chapman and Dr. Shannon Warden (Northfield, 2019)

A: Most all of us as parents want our children to know we really love them.  I wrote an article for www.mother.ly on that very subject.  In it, you’ll find a summary of the 5 love languages and encouragement for learning and speaking your child’s preferred love language.

How to speak your child’s love language

A: The many parents who ask this question are often using reasonable approaches to discipline but are ineffective for a few other reasons. I encourage them to consider these possibilities…


Perhaps stress is factor. You may be experiencing other stressors such as work, finances, adult relationships, or illness that may be lowering your tolerance and compassion for normal childhood behaviors? Perhaps your child is experiencing stress of his own related to health, home life, or school? If stress is a factor, it could be that you and/or your child are simply tired and need a rest. Outdoors time or other fun time can also be good stress-reducers. For more complicated stress, counseling may be a good option. By reducing stress, you may find that the need for discipline is reduced as well. You may also find that you approach discipline with a clearer mind, which can lead to more positive handling of discipline and more positive outcomes.


Perhaps you and your child are both learning to have more realistic expectations and to be flexible with each other. Children naturally will have a harder time with this because of their age. Adults, on the other hand, know from experience that life doesn’t always go the way they want. If struggling to effectively discipline your child, make sure that you’re fair in what you are asking of him. For example, sitting still for an extended period of time may be hard on a child. By being realistic in how long you expect him to sit still, you may find that his need for correction or discipline may be reduced.


Perhaps your child feels like he cannot make you happy. I have met with many adults over the years who said they felt as children that they could never measure up to their parents’ expectations. They perceived their parents as harsh and unforgiving. Notice if you are in some way conveying this type of message to your child, and if you are, work on having a more forgiving attitude toward him. He is more likely to respond well to your discipline efforts if he believes he has a chance of meeting your expectations.

Love Languages

Perhaps your child’s love tank is low and that is fueling his misbehavior. Perhaps you can work on speaking his love language (www.5lovelanguages.com) to generally continue to strengthen yours and his relationship. This may either help reduce his misbehavior or help you approach discipline in a more loving way, which can then lead to more positive discipline outcomes.

These possibilities may or may not match your circumstances. For further assistance, consider visiting with a family counselor in your area.

A:  Self-esteem doesn’t have an exact formula but, instead, is something families can work on across childhood in various ways. Here are a few ideas:

Love your child unconditionally. Don’t overly praise her strengths and then insult her or emotionally distance yourself from her when she misbehaves or fails. Like you, she has her good moments and her not-so-good moments. Be patient with her.

Avoid favoring one of your children over another one. Sometimes favoritism is subtle, so pay attention to make sure you’re doing your best to love each child equally.

Notice what your child is interested in. Give her lots of opportunities to enjoy those interests and build confidence in her abilities. Participate and have fun with her when possible.

When your child is learning something, give her a chance to do that for herself without you taking over. For example, if she is learning to put puzzles together, allow her to do so on her own without much help from you. Then, when she succeeds, say something encouraging like, “You know what to do.” You can say something similar to your teenager when she decides, for example, how she wants to respond to a friend’s comments. You might listen intently, which shows you value her thoughts. Then, say something like, “Sounds like you’re really thinking a lot about how to handle this.”

A: Realistically, couples don’t necessarily agree on everything. If we do, great! If not, there’s hope! Instead of bogging down in our differences, we can focus on our strengths, accept and even appreciate each other’s differences, and commit to being respectful and loving toward each other in tense moments.

If you and your loved one have had more tense moments than peaceful moments lately, then it may be time to call a business meeting of sorts in which you agree to start fresh. Apologies and forgiveness can bring renewed closeness and motivation to treat each other with kindness.

A: Choose to make time for yourself! That’s the simple answer.

So many women say to this, “I can’t. I have too much to do.” But, if you truly need and want more time and energy, you can and will find a way to make it happen. Of course, you may not have the luxury of extended breaks for self-care, but even the smallest efforts can make a difference. What can you do to free up five minutes for yourself today?

Remember, too, that you are valuable! Your love, service, and work are also valuable. Remembering these truths can also give you a little emotional boost.

And, be kind to yourself. This may simply be a really busy season of life for you. Don’t shame yourself for doing the best you can do. You may even be someone who has health issues that take a toll on your energy. Again, be kind to yourself! That’s a form of self-care in itself.

A:  I imagine that Peter had the same concern when, after taking his eyes off of Jesus, he began to sink into the sea. [For all the details, read Matthew 14:22-33.] There he was, with enough faith to follow Jesus’ invitation to walk on water, just not enough faith to keep his eyes on Jesus.

“But seeing the wind, he [Peter] became frightened, and beginning to sink, he cried out ‘Lord, save me!’ Immediately, Jesus stretched out His hand and took hold of him, and said to him, ‘You of little faith, why did you doubt?’ When they got into the boat, the wind stopped. And those who were in the boat worshiped Him, saying, ‘You are certainly God’s Son!’” (Matthew 14:30-33).

You and I don’t have the advantage of actually seeing Jesus in the flesh right now. We will! And, I’m excited about that!

Nonetheless, Peter’s experience encourages us that God does hear our prayers. We also know that He hears us because He has answered prayers in the past. Think of a specific example of when God heard your prayer or the prayer of someone you know.

For additional encouragement, read these verses from the Bible…

“The Lord is near to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit” (Psalm 34:18).

“I waited patiently on the Lord; and He inclined to me and heard my cry” (Psalm 40:1).

“The Lord is near to all who call upon Him, To all who call upon Him in truth” (Psalm 145:18).

“Rejoice always; pray without ceasing; in everything give thanks; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus” (I Thessalonians 5:16-18).