Turn Name-Calling into 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 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.

It has been 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 toward the person they had wronged. Over time they did this without our intervention. As adults, they have become best friends and are able to solve conflict within their close relationships.

Here are some ideas that worked for our family and might help yours as well:

  • Explain to your children ahead of time that you will be implementing a new process requiring four kind and true statements if there is name-calling in your family. Clarify that is isn’t meant to be punitive, but to encourage restored relationships.
  • Encourage the “name-caller” to take the calming time needed to be sincere.
  • The first “kind and true” should directly correct the hurtful, untrue statement. (“You are not stupid.”)
  • At least two need to be fresh and not used before. (“You’re really good at reading. I’m glad you shared your Legos with me. You’re fun to play Uno with.”)
  • If the “name-calling” child gets stuck, the “name-called” child could help out by suggesting a few creative ideas of his or her own personal strengths. 🙂
  • You know your child best. Does it work better for your child to express these verbally, in writing, or by drawing a picture?
  • When the name-calling child has completed the four “kind and true” statements – celebrate the restored relationship! Give some high-fives all around.

This practice can set a wonderful tone of reconciliation in your family. Adding a discussion of Ephesians 4:15, about speaking the truth in love, will help 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 that 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 fully eliminated – even as adults. But the blessing of this approach is that we have the tools to return to a place of connection and joy.


Join us for a five-session online course designed with busy parents in mind. In our course Sibling Conflict: From Bickering to Bonding we teach parents how to teach their kids The Peace Process. Could you use a little peace in your home? Join us today!

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