“He hit me!!!” “She took my marker!”
Have you ever thought – “I am just refereeing 24/7, and I certainly have better things to do with my day. This is just not okay! The fighting needs to stop.”
Unfortunately, the more we have an expectation that our children should not fight, the harder it is to deal wisely with the challenge of conflict.
The reality is that kids fight all the time! University of Illinois professor and family researcher Laurie Kramer, PhD, has found that siblings between 3 and 7 years old engage in some kind of conflict an average of 3.5 times an hour. The youngest kids (those in the 2-to-4 age group) are the most conflict prone at 6.3 conflicts per hour–or more than one clash every 10 minutes.*
Our kids aren’t going to stop fighting. In fact, we can expect that they will have many conflicts. What if we stopped viewing conflict as an unnecessary and irritating interruption, and started seeing it (and conflict resolution training) as an integral part of family life?
Sibling conflict can be discouraging as parents wonder, “Will these kids ever learn to get along? Will they ever be close?” Jim and I wondered that. Our online course, Sibling Conflict: From Bickering to Bonding, is packed with the insights and practical tools we learned. We guided our kids from hurtful, even aggressive conflicts, to the joy, connection and heartfelt reconciliation that has equipped them to thrive in all their important relationships.
Carrie, a single mom of triplets shared her story of implementing what she has learned in the course:
I watched the segment in your sibling online course about how to guide kids to repair broken relationships. I thought about the valuable opportunity to empower kids for true reconciliation. After bathtime, conflict inevitably erupted among my 5-year-old triplets over who was going to dry off with which towel.
Before the course, I would have quickly decreed who got which towel and commanded an apology: “Sorry.” “I forgive you.” No one would have meant it, of course, and by the time we had all said our well-rehearsed scripts, we would be scowling at each other.
“Are we there yet?” “I have to go to the bathroom!” “I want a Happy Meal NOW!” “No, I want Taco Bell!!”
Ahh, the bliss of car-trip vacations. Whether our children are toddlers or teens, the stress of riding in the car together for extended periods can taint the whole vacation. Wouldn’t it be great if we could time-warp ourselves to our destinations? It’s appealing, but obviously not reality. The real-life temptation is simply to equip each child with a glowing device full of their favorite movies or games, and communicate the message… when it’s hard to get along, we just turn to screens to solve the problem. So let’s look at it differently, because a helpful insight for car rides or any other difficult parenting situation is: Every challenge holds a golden opportunity!
The challenge of car rides together is a great opportunity for connection, teamwork, and creative problem-solving.
Here are some practical, simple ideas:
From sports, to music, to theater and more….our kids have an endless supply of excellent extra-curricular activities at their fingertips. More than at any time in history! With this abundance, kids easily become a little (or a lot) self-focused and inclined to develop the dreaded “Entitlement” mentality unless we have been thoughtful and diligent to combat it.
Warding off the entitlement bug requires being very intentional about participation in extracurriculars, and how to guide your kids to feel more grateful and less entitled.
The first issue to address is about the “why?” – why do we participate in these activities? The answer to this question is the basis for cultivating either a sense of entitlement or a sense of gratitude and grand purpose. The answers might range anywhere from, “So I can develop good skills for life.” Or, “So I can fit in with other kids.” Or, “So I can get a college scholarship.” Each of these “why’s?” is common, but you’ll notice that each is self-focused.
Two-year-old Sam asked for milk while waiting for breakfast. His mom, Rebekah, was happy to oblige and poured him a small cup. Sam was at a curious, exploratory stage of life. He didn’t want the milk so much for drinking, but for a little science experiment about liquids and gravity. So he poured it all out. Onto himself.
Knowing when to stand firm as a parent and when to extend mercy can be a difficult challenge, and can leave your kids feeling confused about your authority.
Have you heard yourself say these things?
…That is not ok, do you understand me? How many times do I have to tell you?
The rough-looking teen’s tough veneer had softened. I detected tears in his eyes.
“No one has ever said anything like that to me.”
Just minutes before, I met this teen in a line at our local amusement park. After a brief conversation, I dug a little deeper and asked Jared what he was good at. “Are you kidding?” He seemed angry. “Look at me.” Violent tattoos, tattered dark clothes, a defiant countenance and multiple piercings on his ears, nose, eyebrows and lips were suggestive of a hard life.
Could it be that one of the main reasons Jesus is so appealing to us, a reason we want to follow him, is that we see throughout scripture that he “gets” people?
He knows us. He understands us. He meets us where we are. Hebrews 4:15 essentially tells us that we have a high priest (Jesus) who empathizes with our every weakness. Following in Jesus’ example, we represent his character to our kids when we empathize with them in their weaknesses.
Disciplining misbehaving kids is often a difficult and emotion-laden task. Our oldest son Daniel, sometimes said to Lynne, “Mom, you just bursted all over us!” And he was painfully right. Jim had his share of quick, harsh reactions as well. Those were discouraging times for all of us, and we wished we knew how to get unstuck from that negative pattern.