Disciplining misbehaving kids is often a difficult and emotion-laden task. Our oldest son Daniel, sometimes said to Lynne, “Mom, you just bursted all over us!” And he was painfully right. Jim had his share of quick, harsh reactions as well. Those were discouraging times for all of us, and we wished we knew how to get unstuck from that negative pattern.
When kids fight, the typical way many parents try to resolve things is to tell the kids they have to say they’re sorry.
While parents may be aware that this can be a very shallow, “go through the motions” sort of consequence for kids, they may also struggle to know what to do instead — “How else will my kids know that they should say they’re sorry?”
We can’t make our kids give a heartfelt apology. But we’ve found that not only can kids learn the importance of apologizing and reconciling from the heart, but they can even learn to the point where they value reconciliation enough to mend broken relationships themselves!
In this short 3-minute video, Lynne shares a helpful illustration to explain conflict resolution to kids and some practical tips for how to teach and model reconciliation in your home.
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It can be hard work to change the way you parent. Especially when your efforts to stay calm lead to more pushback from your kids.
Along the way it’s normal to fall into the old habit of huffing and puffing to get your own sense of control. Don’t lose heart! When this happens, let the dust settle for you and your child, and then ask your kids the following powerful questions:
When kids make a mistake, especially when they hurt others, most parents would agree that it’s important to learn repentance — to feel sorry for what they’ve done.
But in our pursuit of this goal, many parents settle for the appearance of repentance — a quick and skin-deep “Sorry.” This approach does NOT teach kids to repent. It only teaches them that conflict can be “resolved” by going through empty motions, or saying the magic words even when their hearts are not in it. This actually hardens hearts to true repentance.
In our family, one of the realities we face is siblings who fight. I tend to want to stop my children’s rivalry in its tracks, but I have found that I sometimes contribute to the problem rather than solve it. Ultimately, I really want my children to figure out how to stop fighting on their own, but at first, I didn’t have the tools. Through Connected Families, I learned how to teach my children to solve their quarrels–a life skill I want them to carry into adulthood.
“Don’t jump to conclusions” and “believe the best in people” are two phrases I repeat often in my family — especially to my 11-year-old son.
But, if I’m honest, when my kids fight I am the one who jumps to conclusions and doesn’t believe the best in people.
As the youngest of four kids myself (poor, innocent me) I naturally see life from my daughter’s point of view (age 9). My husband, who grew up as the older brother of two, naturally sees life from our son’s point of view. When we get involved in our children’s fights, it is almost impossible to act as neutral parties, since we’ve got our own baggage to deal with!
This is why, when I started immersing myself in Connected Families content a few years ago (before I was employed with them) parenting tips like “When Kids Fight” helped guide me through some really difficult times. Here’s one of my favorite lines:
It was a Sunday evening. I was emotionally and physically done for the day and looking forward to a quiet house. Suddenly I overheard squabbling about who was the rightful owner of a large stuffed panda bear.
My engagement with sibling conflict has often aggravated my son’s anger: he feels criticized by my effort to protect his younger sister. I should have known better than to get involved in this panda bear affair, especially when I was already a little bit cranky! But I was tired and I just wanted them to go to bed so I could have a little peace and quiet to start my week.
“Knock it off! Stop it! Get over here, NOW!” These are familiar phrases for most parents. When kids act up we get frustrated. We get demanding and even disrespectful. Kids may comply with our demands in the short run but over the long run they learn from our example to be frustrated, demanding, and disrespectful when they’re not getting their way.
Dustin was becoming this kind of parent. He saw where it was leading and knew he wanted to walk a different road. He looked at numerous resources and when he discovered Connected Families he knew he had found what he was looking for. For the past 14 months he has immersed himself in Connected Families resources and support. Where once his primary goal was quick fixes and parental control, his primary goal is now to come alongside his kids as a model of God’s grace and guidance. It’s been hard work and it’s far from finished. But this recent report from Dustin shows the results:
This following scene has played out hundreds of times in our house between me and my son. We know the scripts and we play the parts well. Too well.
The first scene opens on my 9-year-old son, who is outside playing with his neighborhood friends, making up fantastic make-believe games or throwing the football or shooting hoops. I love our neighborhood and I love that he has the freedom to be a kid. This is what I want for him! It’s a 9-year-old’s dream come true.
I call him inside to do something responsible like eat a meal, get ready for practice, do homework, take a shower. He explodes and tells me I’ve ruined his life.
“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 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.