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.”
Big sister Bella bounces and crashes her way through life with Tigger-like abandon, unaware of the impact of her big movements and energy on those around her. When it came to pushing her new little brother in his baby swing, WHEE! The higher the better, of course!
Her mom Cassie sometimes felt like a broken record. “Be gentle Bella.” “You might hurt him.” “Slow down.” “Blah, blah, blah…” Cassie was concerned about her infant son’s safety, but didn’t want to micromanage Bella’s interaction with Elijah or fill their budding relationship with a tone of criticism and anxiety. She felt stuck.
As we problem-solved this dilemma in a coaching session, we turned to Jesus’ example (always a good idea!) and came up with a few ideas:
Adding a new sibling can be a rough transition for the whole family, especially for a child. You may imagine how fun it will be to see your kids playing together and exploring the world together, but when the newborn actually comes those kinds of moments can seem like a faraway dream.
Corey and Andrea had a 2 ½ year-old daughter, Lynnea, and a son on the way. See how they helped to prepare Lynnea for all the transitions that were about to happen.
Sometimes it can be a good thing to let kids fight. This played itself out last week as I was caring for my niece and nephews (4th – 7th grade). During dinner they began to argue the sort of argument that I wanted to immediately stop. I felt my anxious chemicals kick in, but I took a deep breath instead of saying something. I just waited. (BTW – learning to recognize our own physical symptoms of stress is a really important parenting skill).
The kids didn’t fight well and it ended badly, the youngest one running away in tears because the older ones had ganged up on her. Some parents would say I should have immediately stopped the disrespect and required more honoring behavior. Maybe. I am crafty enough in working with youngsters that I could have intervened and gotten them back on track. But then their resolution would have happened because of my management skills, not their own resolve. What happened next is why I like to wait unless people are being downright abusive. I like to simply make observations and ask questions about what happened in order to help the kids understand themselves better.
Today’s post is written as part of “Give to the Max Day,” a large scale effort to call attention to the TONS of great causes and to inspire giving. We’d be honored if you’d add or again include Connected Families in your charitable giving portfolio. Click here to go right to the giving page. Or, read the story of transformation that follows, and visit the donation links below.
Five-year-old Selah and her parents, Scott and Kari
“I wasn’t safe! I need to go to my room to think about this,” exclaimed five-year-old Selah after hitting her infant brother Caleb. It seemed almost miraculous that she would say such a thing. Adding to the beauty of the scene, by the time her parents Scott and Kari went to her to talk about it, she had a plan to ask for forgiveness and make things right. Who’da thunk it? A feisty five-year-old child, internally motivated to remove herself when misbehaving and reconcile well. Think of how this will play out as she grows older.
Ed was trying to be patient and thoughtful, but he was at the end of his rope. Instead of helping him fix dinner, his two daughters were upstairs arguing loudly and disrespectfully. As he listened he thought to himself, “That’s it, I’ve had enough. That’s the last straw!”
Seconds later the inevitable happened: screams cascaded down the steps and into the kitchen as the older sister innocently appeared for her table-setting duty. With loud voice and popping veins Ed erupted. “Are you happy now? Your sister is crying! Did you get what you wanted?”
As Ed retold the story he looked discouraged. He’d been working on asking constructive questions and empowering his kids to solve their own problems. Technically, he asked a couple of questions, but we can immediately recognize the intent was not to discover new information or empower his daughter. “I was angry and I knew I wanted to ask some questions,” he said sadly, “but those were the only ones that came to my mind.”
I said, “That is awesome!”
“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.”
The problem is that the more we have an expectation that our children should not fight, the harder it is to deal wisely with the challenge of conflict.
Many parents think that some sort of painful punishment is the best motivator for kids to improve their behavior. Other parents “focus on the positive” and offer rewards when kids do well.
Research about what motivates workers to do well reveals that extrinsic rewards are less important than intrinsic motivation, and that a key element of intrinsic motivation includes a sense of progress – that you are on track and moving in the right direction.
Could it be that progress motivates children also? Consider Shelly’s grace-filled story.
Sometimes the transition from highly-structured school days to loosey-goosey summer days can put a little extra strain on family relationships. But the extra time can also be a great opportunity to build deep connection between family members. To help you get a few ideas, here is a smorgasbord of parenting tips and resources to invigorate your family time this summer!
Family Meetings: just the words send some parents into a state of anxiety while kids yawn and get immediately distracted. But with a few simple guidelines family meetings can be fun, build cooperation, unity, and even leadership skills!