Recently we heard this awesome story of sibling conflict resolution from a family we know, and we thought we’d share it with you! Enjoy!
We have three children – a 12-year-old daughter and two sons, ages 8 and 10. Our sons – Henry and Sam, respectively – were going through a period of hassling with each other frequently, and it was significantly affecting the overall vibe in our home. We decided to teach them the Connected Families steps for peaceful reconciliation. We called it “the peace process.”
Guided by “Discipline that Connects with Your Child’s Heart,” we would first encourage them to calm down by finding their own space for a few minutes, or taking a few deep breaths, and then they would determine if they were calm enough to work through their hassle. If not – a few more deep breaths, a stroll around the main floor of our house, a few minutes sitting alone on the couch… anything to get the space they needed to disengage from the hassle for a minute.
Once they were calm, we’d move on to step two of the peace process – understanding one another’s perspective. One would say to the other, “Can you tell me how you’re feeling?” And then he’d restate what he heard his brother saying. And then they’d flip roles. “Do you feel understood?” they would ask each other, and if not, they’d ask for more information and try restating again until the answer was “yes.”
The third step was coming up with a win-win solution. This step was often challenging for them, and we’d sometimes have to redo steps one and two in the midst of trying to settle step three. But eventually they’d land somewhere conciliatory and come up with a compromise: “How about you get the ball for five minutes, and then I get it for five minutes?” “How about you read in the living room, and I’ll play my music in the basement?”
We also took to tacking on the bonus step of “hugging it out” after the win-win solution was reached.
The peace process has changed their way of fighting with one another. We have grown accustomed to hearing one say to the other (without our prompting, no less!), “I’m mad at you. I need to take a few breaths.” Or, “Can you tell me how you’re feeling?” The other day, I could hear my boys fighting in the basement, and I did not intervene. It got quieter down there, and a few minutes later, my youngest son came up.
“Sounds like it was heating up in the basement,” I commented.
He responded, “Yeah, but we did the peace process and worked it out.”
Not long ago, we had a neighbor boy, Mitch, over at our home. He spends a lot of time here, and he and my 10-year-old son will often go head-to-head, sometimes even getting physical with each other. After such fights, Mitch will leave screaming and refuse to come out of his house. One day as my boys were going through the peace process, Mitch watched in fascination.
I explained it to him, and he listened intently as they worked through things.“What are they doing?” he whispered to me.
A few days later, Mitch and Sam started yelling at each other about something and things escalated quickly. Mitch started to run out of our house as he hollered his anger at Sam, and I stood in his path.
“Mitch, let’s go do the peace process.”
He had tears streaking down his face and was furious with Sam, and so the “calm down” took a while, but after that, he walked through every step. Once they had reached a win-win solution, Mitch said eagerly, “We have to do the last step – hug it out!” Mitch, Sam, and even my other son Henry met in the middle of the room in a three-way hug that ended as a huge, laughing, hog pile.
Now that we have that language and practice shared between the boys, the peace process can be employed any time they find themselves at odds with each other, which has made their play times far more enjoyable for all!
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