Confrontation vs. Communication


  • puts people on the defensive
  • causes a feeling of “victim”
  • raises the walls of resistance
  • lessens the opportunity for change


  • lowers defenses
  • causes a feeling of “being heard”
  • eliminates the need for resisting
  • opens the heart to embrace change

When we confront, we are operating out of our fears. We are focused on ourselves.

In the book Age of Opportunity, Paul Tripp reminds parents that our goal is to get to the heart of the matter. Our goal is to understand what is really happening in our children’s hearts.

If we arrive on the scene and begin announcing what is wrong and quickly move to declaring our solution, we unwittingly remove the need for our children to be involved in the process. We undermine their opportunity to make any reasonable connections to the situation. Our actions, rather than helping, actually hurt our goal of getting to their hearts.

Tripp supplies a list of questions to use on the spot. Instead of launching into the parental viewpoint, he advocates walking your children through the situation step-by-step to analyze what happened. This simple exercise is training them to process what is happening on a heart level. The effort of getting to the heart requires patience.

My husband and I have used these with great success. These simple questions have created a profound shift in the way we approach our children. Asking these questions has enabled us to remain calm in situations that in the past would have escalated into angry confrontations. Instead we were equipped.

Prior to reading this book, we never realized that instead of helping we were really hurting them. After all, it was our responsibility as their parent to point out everything that was wrong.  Or so we thought.

Once we realized our role was to act as a guide for our children. This allowed a powerful shift to take place. Our children now had the freedom to analyze the problem.  They were challenged to make a connection between their thoughts and actions, which lead to ownership and accepting of responsibility.

5 Questions to Ask for Communicating versus Confronting:

  1. What was going on? (Tell me about the situation)
  2. What were you thinking and feeling? (Heart response to the situation)
  3. What did you do? (Behavioral response)
  4. Why did you do it? (Motive, goals, desires that shaped the behavior)
  5. What was the result? (How their response affected the situation)

Because these questions deal with examining motives, they are best suited for children who can handle that level of thought. We tend to use these with our oldest 3, ages 11 and up.

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