Kids fight. Sibling conflict is a reality in just about every family. It is hard to know how to parent with wisdom and confidence in the middle of a battle over who has the most space in the backseat or who got the bigger piece of cake. These kinds of fights seem to happen every day and wear parents out the most because they seem to ramp up so quickly. Suddenly, the fight is no longer about the seat space or the cake but about bigger issues–like selfishness or your child’s character. Things can get out of hand pretty quickly and it is hard to know how to respond to conflict in a way that promotes growth and peace instead of hurt and anger. Many parents feel stuck in defeating patterns when their kids are fighting. Perhaps it is time to think about new ways to help with sibling conflict.
Connected Families developed this 4-level framework to help parents rethink about sibling conflict from a place of wisdom and confidence.
Take a look at this 5-minute video which teaches about a helpful approach to look at the ways that conflict can be an opportunity to build wisdom.
Some highlights from the video:
Attempts at solving sibling conflict by implementing a formula of “Apologize, go to your room, and don’t come out until you are ready to be nice,” often are counterproductive.
We learned to change our perspective about misbehavior and began to think of things like conflict as an opportunity to build long-term skills and wisdom in our kids.
We began to realize that our homes and our families needed to have connectionin order to thrive.
A young mom queried me intently after our talk on Entitlement in kids. “What do you do about the culture around us that guarantees that every child is a “winner” at participating and receives a trophy, even for last place?”
We commiserated about how rampant this attitude is, that dispenses trophies and stickers and stars and ribbons ad nauseum to make sure no one feels bad, and puts caps and gowns on kindergarteners for conquering a rigorous academic year.
So practically, how can you respond to this widespread attitude of trophy entitlement? Here’s what I told Jill.
When our kids do something they’re not supposed to, or ask us for something they can’t have, often our reflexive response is a simple, quick, “No!” And our kids’ reflexive response to “no” can be frustration, resentment, or even a meltdown.
But a look at the Bible gives us another way to respond to our kids — one that still enforces boundaries, but helps kids to grow in wisdom even through the “no”.
Caroline was thoughtful as I described how our young adult kids call from time to time and ask us to help them think through a situation.
“After they describe their dilemma, we usually ask them thoughtful questions to guide their thinking,” I explained.
“Hmm.” Caroline thought for a moment. “Neither my husband or I ever call our parents asking for input with a challenge. When we talk to our parents we don’t feel listened to, we feel lectured. They were very authoritarian when we were young, and they really haven’t changed.”
That insight about her own parents guided a great discussion about the kind of relationship she wanted to have with her children as they grow.
The parent feels annoyed, even a bit angry and responds, “You can’t talk to me that way! You’re grounded for the rest of the day! You go to your room and think about what you said!”
Parents often deal with situations like this hoping to teach their children a lesson — but sometimes this typical sort of guidance can lead in the wrong direction. This sort of consequence may lead to more anger and disrespect down the line.
Here are three characteristics of unhelpful consequences that parents often give to their misbehaving or struggling kids.
To illustrate this in real life, we’ve invited Joel and Amy to write about their journey to learn to ask good questions and build wisdom with their two teenage sons.
I remember the feeling of cluelessness one day when my husband and I were sitting in a session with our parent coach, Chad.
We’d been learning from Connected Families’ resources about how to communicate to our two teenage sons that they were safe and loved. While we were growing and our hearts were changing, we still had many unsolved problems and felt stuck. After we described an issue with one of our sons during a coaching session, Chad asked, “How does your son feel about it?”
Dead silence. We were totally clueless. We said that we thought he felt a certain way, but really we had no idea. Then Chad asked, “Well, have you ever asked him?”
Painting pictures in my mind has been very helpful in my parenting journey. For example, when I’m upset and feel like my head is going to explode I imagine a balloon in my lungs filling and releasing air. When my kids are upset and I remain calm, I visualize myself “loaning” my calm to them as a blanket to cover them during their emotional storm.
A word-picture God gave me recently is appropriate for the spring weather we’ve been having: when my kids are upset, tense, frustrated, angry — really any negative emotion — I picture a tiny rototiller tilling up the soil of their hearts.