When Your Kids Fight

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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.

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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?!
  4. 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

4 thoughts on “When Your Kids Fight

  1. I think you are so right about coaching (training!) our kids in how to relate to one another in conflict. It really does seem to give them a pattern that they can fall back on in order to work things out between themselves.

    One way that we’ve been able to help our kids learn to reconcile to one another on their own is that unless it’s clearly a sin issue that requires parental discipline (somebody hit somebody else, that kind of thing), I send the kids to the couch and tell them that they need to work it out with each other. They are not allowed to complain to me about their sibling unless they have tried to work it out with each other first. Scripture is clear that we should work issues out with each other, not take our grievances first to a third-party. So when I hear an issue happening, or if one of them tells me there is an issue, I tell our kids to go to the couch and stay there until they’ve worked it out. They know the routine: they are required to listen to each other, work through the problem, apologize to each other, forgive each other, and be happy with each other. Usually it’s a disagreement over who was playing with what toy, or how somebody wanted to play their imagination game differently, that sort of thing. They talk out their frustrations, agree on a plan of action going forward, tell each other they’re sorry, forgive each other, hug, and then ask if they can get off the couch.

    I really love doing it this way because most of the time, I don’t really need to know what the issue is. It is teaching them how to reconcile with each other by understanding where the other person is coming from and then coming up with a plan of action that is fair to both of them. Most of the time, the plan of action that they come up with is something that I would have never dreamed of, but they are both totally satisfied with it, and I’m happy too because I don’t have to get involved.

    With this method, I only have to step in as an arbitrator about 1 in 20 times. I think it also helps the kids to learn to work things out with each other while they are playing/interacting, instead of continuing to annoy each other until it escalates and Mom sends them to the couch to work it out. There is much less couch time than there used to be, because their goal is now to continually work things out with each other.

    For those 1 in 20 times when I do need to step in, I totally agree with you about listening to them and valuing their story, being patient, and bringing it to full reconciliation. But I wanted to share this method too, because I think it helps train them to work things out with each other from a young age, without having to rely on a mediator for most conflicts. And the bonus is that every time I do this, and it works, which is always, I feel like I’ve struck gold… it is so wonderful to hear them work things out! It makes me excited for their long-term relationships with each other and their future friends and spouses, too. :)

    • Jamie, I love this input. And don’t you find that when they are ready to “get off the couch,” they come to you as like, reconciled buddies? This is great advice for giving your kids a boost towards relational maturity, don’t you think? Their future spouses should thank us! 😉

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