Teaching Kids to Resolve Conflict

Teaching Kids to Resolve Conflict

Note: The following story depicts principles drawn from the chapter on Sibling Conflict in our book “How to Grow a Connected Family. Click these titles to get the whole chapter free, or learn more about the book.

My dear brothers and sisters, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry, because human anger does not produce the righteousness that God desires. James 1:19, 20

Three principles for resolving conflict

The twin girls fight frequently. They have a close, but tense sibling relationship. Katie tends to be the dominant one, and often takes advantage of her sister Kallie. The nature of their fighting was taking a toll on their closeness and the momentum wasn’t good as their words and actions became more hurtful.

Their frequent conflicts were getting more and more negative attention from parents and another sibling. As I (Lynne) coached the mom and daughters we came up with a fairly simple plan. It’s so practical I’d like to share it with other parents as a tool for equipping your own kids with a vision and some concrete ideas for resolving conflicts with siblings or friends.

I printed three conflict resolution principles, each on a separate piece of cardstock:

  1. COOL DOWN.

  2. UNDERSTAND EACH OTHER.

  3. FIND A WIN-WIN!

Then, with mom and kids together in the room, I briefly explained each principle and gave the kids some markers, inviting them to draw pictures of how they would act on each principle to solve future conflicts. If they’d been older kids I’d have asked just for simple written statements asking, “What could you do to accomplish each principle?”

Magic markers to the rescue!

By drawing pictures that fit the principles, the girls made concrete plans. For “COOL DOWN” Kallie drew a picture of herself reading and Katie of herself playing with toys. For “UNDERSTAND EACH OTHER” The girls worked together to draw a picture of one person talking and one with really big ears listening. And for “FIND A WIN-WIN” they together drew a picture of them playing nicely together. These drawings of their future success established a simple vision for getting along well.

find a win-win sibling conflict resolution

With these pictures in hand we then discussed how Katie and Kallie’s mom could facilitate (not control) the girl’s completing the above steps to truly learn to reconcile conflict. She came back the next week and said, “It’s actually better! Not perfect, but we’re making progress.”

Key Questions and Biblical Context

Consider doing this with your own kids. Below are the principles, some basic questions to guide kids through, and some teaching from the Bible if you want to put the principles in Biblical context:

COOL DOWN.

What’s my best way to get calm?

How have I settled down before?

Psalm 4:4 “…In your anger do not sin; …search your hearts and be silent”

UNDERSTAND EACH OTHER.

What did I feel? What did I want?

What did my sibling (or friend) feel and want?

James 1:19 “…be quick to listen, slow to speak”
Eph. 4:15 “…speak the truth in love”
Eph. 4:32 “…Forgive one another as quickly and thoroughly as God in Christ forgave you”


FIND A WIN-WIN.

How have we solved this kind of thing before?

How can we solve this?

How could we each feel honored and respected by the solution?

Phil. 2:2-3, The Message…”Agree with each other, love each other, be deep-spirited friends. Don’t push your way to the front; don’t sweet-talk your way to the top. Put yourself aside, and help others get ahead.”

Now try it!

Working on these skills helps a child to form an identity as a learner and a reconciler instead of as a troublemaker or aggressor. It helps parents and children alike become more accountable to constructive conflict resolution as they grow in confidence and experience. Try these principles, perhaps using these helpers:

Afterwards, tell us how it goes by leaving a comment below!

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