Have you ever thought – “I am just refereeing 24/7, and I certainly have better things to do with my day. This is not okay! The fighting needs to stop.”
Unfortunately, the more we have an expectation that our children shouldn’t fight, the harder it is to be prepared for the challenge of conflict.
The reality is that kids fight all the time! University of Illinois professor and family researcher Laurie Kramer, Ph.D., 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.*
“You’re dumb!” “No, YOU’RE dumb!” “Well, you’re a loser!” “I know you are, but what am I?” “You’re a butthead!”
Name-calling between children is a challenge for many families. Once kids get on a roll of slinging names back and forth it can seem like an express train to a sibling meltdown. But it doesn’t have to be that way! You can help your kids turn their angry words into an opportunity to connect and build even stronger relationships.
In our Sibling Conflict online course we teach something called The Peace Process, using the steps Calm, Understand, Solve, Celebrate. The story below is from a mom of three who has implemented this process in her own family.
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.
Left to their own devices, toddlers form “rules of possession” that can last a lifetime if not understood and addressed by parents. Does this list look familiar?
If I like it, it’s mine.
If it’s in my hand, it’s mine.
If I can take it from you, it’s mine.
If I had it a little while ago, it’s mine.
If it’s mine, it must never appear to be yours in any way.
Forcing kids to share robs them of the joy of sharing. However, cultivating joy in sharing leads to true generosity.This road of nurturing generosity is a slow process of building a life-long value. So be patient with your kids and yourself!
Armed with the guiding insights and proactive strategies below, you’ll be able to help your children learn to value and even enjoy sharing!
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.
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.
When kids fight, parents typically try to resolve things by telling the kids they have to say they’re sorry.
While parents may be aware that this can be a very shallow, “go through the motions” sort of consequence for kids, they may also struggle to know what to do instead — “How else will my kids know that they should say they’re sorry?”
We can’t make our kids give a heartfelt apology. But we’ve found that not only can kids learn the importance of apologizing and reconciling from the heart, but they can even learn to the point where they value reconciliation enough to mend broken relationships themselves!
In this short 3 minute video, Lynne shares a helpful illustration to explain conflict resolution to kids, and some practical tips for teaching and modeling reconciliation in your home.
When kids make a mistake, especially when they hurt others, most parents would agree that it’s important to learn repentance — for kids to feel sorry for what they’ve done.
But in our pursuit of this goal, many parents settle for the appearance of repentance — a quick and skin-deep “Sorry.” This approach does NOT teach kids to repent. It only teaches them that conflict can be “resolved” by going through empty motions, or saying the magic words even when their hearts are not in it. This actually hardens hearts to true repentance.
In our family, one of the realities we face is siblings who fight. I tend to want to stop my children’s rivalry in its tracks, but I have found that I sometimes contribute to the problem rather than solve it. Ultimately, I really want my children to figure out how to stop fighting on their own, but at first, I didn’t have the tools. Through Connected Families, I learned how to teach my children to solve their quarrels–a life skill I want them to carry into adulthood.
“Don’t jump to conclusions” and “believe the best in people” are two phrases I repeat often in my family — especially to my 11-year-old son.
But, if I’m honest, when my kids fight I am the one who jumps to conclusions and doesn’t believe the best in people.
As the youngest of four kids myself (poor, innocent me) I naturally see life from my daughter’s point of view (age 9). My husband, who grew up as the older brother of two, naturally sees life from our son’s point of view. When we get involved in our children’s fights, it is almost impossible to act as neutral parties, since we’ve got our own baggage to deal with!
This is why, when I started immersing myself in Connected Families content a few years ago (before I was employed with them) parenting tips like “When Kids Fight” helped guide me through some really difficult times. Here’s one of my favorite lines:
It was a Sunday evening. I was emotionally and physically done for the day and looking forward to a quiet house. Suddenly I overheard squabbling about who was the rightful owner of a large stuffed panda bear.
My engagement with sibling conflict has often aggravated my son’s anger: he feels criticized by my effort to protect his younger sister. I should have known better than to get involved in this panda bear affair, especially when I was already a little bit cranky! But I was tired and I just wanted them to go to bed so I could have a little peace and quiet to start my week.