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Should I Require Fighting Kids to Apologize?

When Forced Apologies Backfire

Sibling conflict can be discouraging as parents wonder, “Will these kids ever learn to get along? Will they ever be close?” Jim and I wondered that. Our online course, Sibling Conflict: From Bickering to Bonding, is packed with the insights and practical tools we learned. We guided our kids from hurtful, even aggressive conflicts, to the joy, connection and heartfelt reconciliation that has equipped them to thrive in all their important relationships. 

Carrie, a single mom of triplets shared her story of implementing what she has learned in the course:

I watched the segment in your sibling online course about how to guide kids to repair broken relationships. I thought about the valuable opportunity to empower kids for true reconciliation. After bathtime, conflict inevitably erupted among my 5-year-old triplets over who was going to dry off with which towel.

Before the course, I would have quickly decreed who got which towel and commanded an apology: “Sorry.” “I forgive you.” No one would have meant it, of course, and by the time we had all said our well-rehearsed scripts, we would be scowling at each other.

My kids’ “apologies” didn’t reflect true reconciliation, only my ability to be in control.  

But now it’s different. Last night when the towel fight erupted, and one of my boys said something unkind about it to my daughter, I pulled him aside and gently said, “Your words were aimed at hurting your sister, so I would like you to think of 3 kind things to say to her to help repair your relationship.” It took him a few minutes to figure out what I meant, but then he said, “Lilly is so fun to play with. And that time I wrote a note that said, ‘Lilly is dumb,’ I liked writing another note later that said, ‘Lilly, I love you. Love, Mailon.”

Despite the mixed nature of the encouragement, I watched my daughter’s face soften, and she began to smile. Then she jumped out of the bathtub, hugged her brother, and said, “Would you like to share my towel with me?” We then celebrated their relationship being repaired, and I told them how it brought me joy to watch them reconnect their hearts after a conflict.

Sometimes the minute I walked away after a forced apology, they were at it again over something else.  Now when I see their hearts soften towards each other, the peace is truer, deeper and more lasting. But more importantly, they are learning the skills for grace-filled relationships in life! Even though they will certainly fight over towels again at some point, maybe even tonight ;-).

Thank you so much for your Christ-centered parenting resources; you make me feel like I can raise my children to love God and to love each other!

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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Lynne Jackson
Lynne Jackson
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