Turn “You’re a Butthead” into Creative Sibling Connection

“You’re dumb!”
“No, YOU’RE dumb!”
“Well you’re a loser!”
“I know you are, but what am I?”
“You’re a butthead!”
“MOMMMMMMMMM!!!!”

Name-calling between children is a challenge in 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 rebuild even stronger relationships.

It is said that it takes four kind statements to “undo” one unkind statement. With this in mind, our family implemented a “four kind and true things” policy. Each time one of the kids said something unkind and/or untrue (“You’re STUPID!”), they completed a “make it right” consequence of four kind and true statements before resuming privileges.

Not wanting to make anything a parent-enforced drill, we encouraged the kids to take the calming time they needed to be sincere. The first “kind and true” was about directly correcting the hurtful, untrue statement. At least two had to be fresh and not used before. (“You’re NOT stupid, you’re really good at reading, I’m glad you shared your Legos with me, you’re fun to play Uno with.”) Occasionally if the “name-caller” got stuck, the “name-called” child would help out by suggesting a few creative ideas of his or her own personal strengths.

This practice set a wonderful tone of reconciliation in our family. Adding a discussion of Ephesians 4:15, about speaking the truth in love, helped cement the biblical nature of this activity.

This approach flows from a constructive perspective: it is much more helpful to train than to punish. It is interesting to note that the child in our family who most often needed to complete “four kind and trues” has become the strongest affirmer of others. One morning we found a note our eldest, Daniel, wrote spontaneously to his little brother. “Dear Noah, Thanks for being a neat, fun, little guy who defuses conflicts wisely and says funny things all the time, and is smart like crazy, who makes me a proud big brother.” (Wow, even more than four!)

With the intense personalities in our family, conflict will never be eliminated, but the blessing of this approach is that we easily return to a place of connection and joy.

Apply It Now:

  • Read Ephesians 4:15 with your kids and talk about what it means to “speak the truth in love.”
  • The next time someone (even a parent!) says something unkind, encourage them to take a break to write down “four kind and true things” about the person they hurt. Make sure your tone communicates – “I’m for you. I believe the best in you.”
  • Celebrate the contrast between the feelings of name-calling, and how it feels to speak the truth in love to one another. This is how God designed our hearts! 🙂

Take 15 minutes to learn how to give consequences that teach, rather than simply punish, by downloading our free ebook Consequences That Actually Work.

The “Peace Process”: Teaching Reconciliation in Your Home

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.”

A Creative Alternative to Those Endless Reminders…

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:

Welcoming a New Sibling into the Family

welcoming baby sibling

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.

Why Letting Kids Argue Can Be a Good Idea

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.

How Your Support Helped a Child Learn to Take Her Own Time-Outs

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.

Selah-Scott-Kari ED

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.

Do Your Questions Help or Hurt Your Kids?

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!”

Are You Expecting Your Kids to Fight?

 

“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.

An Often Overlooked Motivator of Good Behavior…

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.