I hate it when my kids fight. Not only do I want to them to like each other, but when they don’t get along, it’s just… inconvenient. I have to figure out who did what, and who deserves what. It all takes so much time and energy! However, I know that by helping my kids work through conflict I am investing in future adults who aren’t paralyzed when confronted with it. Here’s some tips to help our kids get there.
- Talk to them (not at them). Sounds simple, but our temptation is to walk by and command, “STOP FIGHTING!” and continue being preoccupied with something more exciting than 5 year olds fighting over Legos. (If, by the way, you have the magical power of yelling out into the air “Stop fighting!” and children automatically start sharing and making up, please email me.) Seriously, stop and listen to each kids’ story. If they know that their side of the story is at least being heard, that does tons for their hearts. After gathering as much info as you need, make a verdict and deal with the offenses.
- Don’t get annoyed. It’s irritating when your kids fight with each other, but remember, you’re the one in charge of teaching them to deal with relational conflict. Kids are born immature, and they are still in training! If you act annoyed at them, they will act annoyed with each other. Instead, be patient and sympathetic. They don’t know how to deal with injustice and rejection. Patiently teach them how to handle it maturely.
- Be fair. Address all wrongdoings. Favoring one child will result in sibling rivalry. This means you need to correct all offenses (even if one child is significantly younger). If one child is clearly being picked on or left out, but he reacts by screaming and kicking over everyone’s Legos, he gets in trouble for that. Correct the child who started the fight, but also the child who reacted sinfully. You can tell them, “Yes, that was very mean the way they treated you. But do you think you should have responded that way?” Part of becoming a mature person is learning to control ourselves even when others offend us! What better time to teach people this principle than when they’re still like 5 years old?!
- Bring it to full reconciliation. Once you’ve listened to their stories and corrected all offenders, coach them in apologizing to one another, and help them respond with forgiveness. If they sincerely do this, they are in a good place to resume playing with one another. Do your best to make sure each kid feels validated and forgiven of his offenses before you send them off again. If they don’t do this sincerely, you’ll be back at square one in about 5 minutes! But that’s okay. They are still in training, and that’s what you’re there for–to train them.
With consistent coaching, your kids will reconcile with each other on their own (can you imagine?). Help them figure out their own solutions by asking, “What do you think you need to do to make this right?” When you see them start to reconcile with each other on their own initiative, oh, it is so rewarding! All that hard work will be worth it! In the years to come, you’ll raise healthy adults who can handle conflict well.
But whoever slaps you on your right cheek, turn the other to him also. Matthew 5:39
…as much as depends on you, live peaceably with all men. Romans 12:18
Therefore, whatever you want men to do to you, do also to them. Matthew 7:12