“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 not okay! The fighting needs to stop.”
Unfortunately, the more we have an expectation that our children shouldn’t fight, the harder it is to be prepared for the challenge of conflict.
The reality is that kids fight all the time! University of Illinois professor and family researcher Laurie Kramer, Ph.D., has found that siblings between 3 and 7 years old engage in some kind of conflict an average of 3.5 times an hour. The youngest kids (those in the 2 to 4 age group) are the most conflict-prone at 6.3 conflicts per hour–or more than one clash every 10 minutes.*
“No, YOU’RE dumb!”
“Well, you’re a loser!”
“I know you are, but what am I?”
“You’re a butthead!”
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.
Parents of siblings… did you ever think it would be this hard?
You imagined your kiddos as best friends, being there for each other throughout life, and always having each other’s backs. And yet, here they are, yo-yo-ing from best friends to bitter enemies several times a day. Sometimes it seems like the “best friend” moments are becoming increasingly fleeting as you try to keep the next world war from launching in your living room.
Some of the most frequently asked questions we receive are in regard to sibling conflict. We’ve heard your cry and our online course specifically addresses this seemingly impossible challenge. It was developed after working with thousands of parents throughout the years. We also incorporate our own experiences raising three quarreling children (who now, as young adults, support and love each other dearly!).
In our five-session online course Sibling Conflict: From Bickering to Bonding we teach parents how to teach kids The Peace Process. The way siblings interact is a powerful training ground for future relationships and we believe we can help you navigate this tricky territory. Our goal is not to simply “stop the fighting” but to give you some tools to grow strong, healthy relationships. If kids learn The Peace Process in the safety of your home, they can take this practice with them into all future relationships!
Join us! We’re excited to partner with you as you empower your kids to grow in their relationships with each other…which will strengthen your whole family!
Does it feel like your child is “out of sorts” but you can’t understand why? Do things seem much more difficult for one of your kids than the others? It might simply be that your child struggles with sensory sensitivities: either sensory-seeking, sensory-avoidant, or a combination of the two.
Have you said any of the following?
- “Loud. It’s my son’s only volume level. It’s really draining.”
- “Dressing is always an ordeal for my daughter. No tags, and sometimes no socks, because the seams drive her crazy.”
- “Transitions are so hard. When my son is locked onto his toys, getting him pried away and out to the car is soooo difficult.”
- “My daughter’s mood swings are extreme and sometimes very sudden. The littlest things can set her off. Talk about intense! Her meltdowns wear me out.”
- “My child is easily overstimulated and anxious. Large groups of kids, crowded places or busy stores are usually a prescription for trouble.”
- “Mealtimes are insane with the noise, squirming, rocking and even falling off chairs.”
Coaching parents has been the greatest joy in my professional life! I’ve seen countless kids’ lives change for good while witnessing greater parent confidence and satisfaction. Those results are why I stopped providing therapeutic services to teens and began coaching parents.*
In my experience, the power and influence of a parent with a plan can alter even the most dire family struggles.
Ten years of working with teens labeled as EBD, ODD, ADHD, OCD, or just plain “at-risk”, brought me to a place of seeking my master’s degree in Counseling Psychology and my license in Marriage and Family Therapy. I wanted to help families, not just teens, because behind hurting teens are hurting parents.
As a parent coach, primarily working with parents of teens, I’ve found commonality in the issues parents want to address – especially wanting their kids to obey. NOW!
For the past 20 years, I’ve been doing some form of helping parents and I really enjoy it. I love the unique stories and challenges, and equipping families to find new insights and practical tools. I thought I’d heard everything – but one particular coaching session surprised even me!
When coaching with intense parents Heather and Steve*, the conversation turned to Steve’s tendency to get easily angered and frequently swear when challenged by his son Zach. It’s what Steve had learned in his home growing up. As soon as Zach’s behavior began to feel out of control, Steve would dominate, intimidate, and swear until Zach complied. Now that his little boy was equal height, close to equal weight and learning the same pattern, their relationship was deteriorating rapidly.
Do you have a teen or pre-teen that is tough to motivate regarding school? Perhaps this scene seems familiar: Your daughter is consistently behind with schoolwork and does the minimal amount to keep adults off her back. When she does complete assignments they are disorganized and sloppy. You do your best to encourage her and she snaps back, “I don’t care about school! It’s stupid and useless. If you’d just stop nagging me I’d be fine!’
So you prepare yourself for battle and hope for the best. Something inside of you knows there is a better way, but you’re just not sure how to get there. You desire for your child to ultimately take responsibility for her life and pray your relationship isn’t damaged by the conflict.
There is hope! As a parent coach, working primarily with parents of teens, I’ve seen many parents find success, and I’d like to help you find it too. It helps to understand the cycle that often happens:
As a recovering perfectionist and now a parent coach, I am all too familiar with how perfectionism chokes out the joy and connection in families. Perfectionism is like a measuring stick that grows taller the closer we stand to it. The taller it gets, the higher the standards. This leads to increasing discouragement and shame.
If this is our norm, then the morphing measuring stick multiplies into a measuring stick for each of our children. And, perhaps, even our spouse! A parent who feels they can never measure up almost always raises children who feel like they themselves can never measure up.
Perfectionism isn’t just an emotional issue, it’s a deeply spiritual issue. The Apostle Paul patiently corrected messed up, even immoral, believers. His angriest words, however, were to those in Galatia who were hooked on “getting it right” – attaining righteousness by perfectly following rules.
In our role as parent coaches and educators, we hear it all the time: “One of my kids just doesn’t seem to get it!” Parents go on to describe the child in their home who frequently resists and escapes chores and assigned tasks in spite of all the clear instructions. They then tell us that, in contrast, the other kids in their family seem to be mostly compliant.
Resentment builds as these kids become increasingly aware of the comparison between themselves and (what they perceive to be) their favored siblings. Discouragement settles in as distraction, resistance, and conflict grow.
What recent brain science is helping us understand more clearly is that often the kids who fit the above description are not naturally more rebellious, defiant, or disobedient. Rather, they naturally have lower levels of the neurotransmitter chemical called dopamine. This predisposes them to more intensely chase pleasurable distractions of all kinds. Their need for this chemical is what’s often behind their distraction, and when you call them back to routine chores they cry, “I don’t wanna do it!”. (Read more about dopamine’s role in ADHD)
WHAT’S THE ANSWER?
Did you know you may inadvertently be dealing “drugs” to your children?
Dopamine has been called the brain’s “pleasure chemical.” It is released when pleasure is experienced. It creates healthy motivation to pursue various life-giving pleasures such as accomplishing a goal, taking on a new challenge, or connecting with others in meaningful ways.
According to Amy Banks MD, in an ideal world dopamine bursts would happen primarily through pursuit of healthy, life-giving activities – particularly through nurturing human connection. Unfortunately, we live in a world that has many of us seeking dopamine in all the wrong places, like overeating and obesity, drug and alcohol abuse, and consumerism.
Related to dynamics with our kids, it starts out innocently enough. When you smile and give your child that thing they are SO excited about and you get a big hug – Shazam! a dopamine feast for both of you! It felt so good. Let’s do it again. And you do it again. And they do it again.
And pretty soon contentment becomes dependent on dopamine bursts.