When kids fight, the typical way many parents try to resolve things is to tell 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 how to teach and model 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 — 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.
Last week we wrote about what to do when we blow it. We suggested that overcoming parenting mistakes isn’t so much about not making them (which is good because we made TONS of them), but about being intentional to develop three specific things that will help you recover when you inevitably do blow it:
Skills for reconciling well when you’ve blown it.
Humility for admitting when you don’t live up to your vision.
A vision that can sustain your family through tough times.
These components are like the legs on a three-legged stool. Without all three in place the stool just doesn’t stand up. Over the next few weeks we’re going to share a few practical things parents can do to strengthen each leg. We’ll start with Skills. The following four skills have helped many a parent grow well, in spite of all their mistakes.
Parents, are you struggling with how to address the recent racial tension that has exploded across the United States? At Connected Families we are on the side of Justice, Grace and Peace, without any judgment about how to legislate those values. We know that getting there requires humility and true curiosity. The following is a process for entering volatile topics that we’ve found extremely helpful for those wishing to increase in wisdom for seeking solutions. We invite you to consider the conversations you’ve had or could have regarding events related to the recent unrest in Ferguson.
This following scene has played out hundreds of times in our house between me and my son. We know the scripts and we play the parts well. Too well.
The first scene opens on my 9-year-old son, who is outside playing with his neighborhood friends, making up fantastic make-believe games or throwing the football or shooting hoops. I love our neighborhood and I love that he has the freedom to be a kid. This is what I want for him! It’s a 9-year-old’s dream come true.
I call him inside to do something responsible like eat a meal, get ready for practice, do homework, take a shower. He explodes and tells me I’ve ruined his life.
As stated in previousposts, the way parents deal with anger often gives kids the impression that anger is always bad.
Unfortunately, as kids grow up learning that anger is bad, if they aren’t equipped with ways of dealing with their anger, they tend to do one of two things. They either develop the habit of fighting for the sake of gaining control or they build a habit of “fleeing” (avoiding conflict and stuffing feelings) in order to escape the pain of conflict. Psychologists call this “fight or flight.”
Habitual fighters somehow believe there is significance gained in the fight for power and control. They become overtly angry and aggressive about too many things. They react quickly and unreasonably to the things that anger them. Almost every child’s first expressions of anger are some form of fighting. But if kids regularly get sternly confronted or angrily punished for these expressions, they quickly learn from their parents’ example that anger is a weapon. They either keep fighting harder in order to win, or they learn to flee because they know they can’t win.
Kids who flee get quiet. They get sad. They withdraw into worlds of their own and do little if anything to let us know they’re angry. The most troubling thing when kids “take flight” is that at first glance they don’t seem angry. They are often compliant to our requests. They don’t like the requests, or the feel of being controlled, but they don’t have the will or energy to fight. So they give in and coast along. But there is a limit to how much anger they can hold in. So they have to express it somehow.
Every parent fails to deal perfectly with every parenting situation.
In other words, we all screw up sometimes!
Along the way we’ve discovered that what’s far more important than handling every parenting situation perfectly is to regroup, and resolve well. For it’s in resolving well that parents and children best learn and grow from their mistakes. Here’s a true story of resolving:
We’ve worked with many bullied kids, and with just as many who did the bullying. They were often the same person. As part of National Bullying Prevention Awareness Month, we’re continuing a series of reflections and tips that we’ve found helpful in parents’ efforts to curb bullying in their homes and in the world around them.
What if we viewed bullying the way Jesus the Christ viewed the aggressive pursuits of Saul the Pharisee? In the story, Jesus’ followers have been viciously ‘bullied’ by Saul. But instead of going after him with the penal code, Jesus is moved by love to go to Saul – with compassion and vision. Jesus recruits Saul to use his talents for good, for the proclaiming of the Gospel Saul had so vehemently bullied. Saul was so impacted by Jesus’ approach to the bullying that he changed his name to Paul, and became a zealot of Grace. Paul never bullied God’s son again!
What if, instead of defending and seeking “justice” when our kids get bullied, we helped our kids by offering a compassionate response to those who bully them? When our son got bullied, I asked him what he thought the other boy’s life was like. He said the boy plays video games all day long, his mom smokes and yells, and his dad never plays with him. So I called the boy’s dad and invited him down for a friendly game of father/son football. The boy was on my team and my son paired with the other dad. I did everything I knew how to do to affirm everyone and worked especially hard to encourage the boy who bullied. He never bullied my son again.
These are not absolute answers. But we cannot help but wonder — what if?