By Sabrina Schlesinger
If you haven't noticed....life is filled with difficult people, unfair treatment, and conflict. There are far too many people who have few skills on how to navigate through such things. I truly believe this is one of the main reasons God gave us siblings.
When you have more than one child, it is a game changer. They can be each other's greatest playmates, best friends and closest confidantes. But they can also be their greatest enemy and a relationship that is filled with contention. (This can happen about 100 times in a day too! Lol)
If you find yourself in that place where fights are constantly breaking out between your kids....you aren't failing as a parent. Rather this is a GREAT opportunity for you, and I'm going to show you why.
When siblings fight...we can look at it from three different perspectives:
- The Referee - breaking up the fight and sending them to their corners until the next match begins
- The Crowd - just sit and watch and see what happens
- The Coach - teaching, training and helping them hone their skills
As a mom, I think the BEST perspective to have is that of Coach.
Here are FOUR WAYS you can help train your kids on how to handle conflict, disappointment and unfair treatment when it comes their way...
1. Help them identify their emotions.
For years we had a chart with different faces on it they could point to to let us know what they were feeling, especially when they where younger. Were they feeling sad, angry, left out, disappointed, etc. Our kids are going to be future adults who NEED to know how to identify and evaluate what they are feeling and why. This is such a needed tool in their belt. Especially for boys, who tend to have a more difficult time identifying what exactly they are "feeling." Moms, we are the best at this. God has given us unique sensitivity and intuition for this reason. So help your kids know not just WHAT they are feeling, but WHY.
2. Coach them to go talk directly to the person who they are upset with.
In our family, as soon as they were able to formulate a sentence, we began implementing this. If sister took her toy and they ran out to "tattle," my first question always was, "Did you talk to your sister about that yet?" Which, most of the time, the answer was no. I would instruct them to politely communicate what bothered them to their sibling first, to give them an opportunity to make it right. If that worked, they didn't need to get me involved. If it didn't, then they could bring me into the mix. I would often listen around the corner to hear how they communicated.
This tool is so important. When we take a problem outside of the arena it should be in, we call that triangulation. In Matthew 18, it gives us clear direction on how to handle conflict when someone has offended us. When our kids our young and resilient, this is the BEST time to teach this art of communication. Their sibling becomes their greatest training partner as they learn, fail, and grow in this. My hope is that my kids will have this kind of conflict resolution ingrained in them and will be their default reaction when they are older.
3. Teach them that no one can "make" them feel any way.
Oh boy, this is a biggie! How many of us have heard our kids (and ourselves) say, "You MADE me so angry!!!!" When I hear my kids say that, I remind them that no one is in charge of their emotions and no one can make them feel any certain way. That is just giving others far too much power and control in their lives. Rather I say, "When unfair or difficult situations happen in our life or relationships, we always choose how we feel."
Now I know this is easier said than done, and most the time when I am telling them this, I am preaching to myself as well, but the reality is, it is STILL TRUE. It's so much easier to blame, isn't it? It takes the pressure off of us to own anything and have any responsibility in the conflict. When my kids are fighting, they want so badly for me to correct the other kid. They can't stand it when I deal with them and have them tell me what they did wrong, or how they could have handled it better (I usually do this privately). When it is time to make it right with their sibling, I have them each share this. Humility is a great lesson to learn. Humility lowers defenses in another person. Humility opens up the floodgates of grace to pour out on our lives and bring healing and change. We are doing our kids a disservice if we don't both model this and coach them through it.
4. Hug it out.
The last thing I make my kids do (even as teenagers) is hug it out. I have them repeat after me while looking into each other's eyes and holding hands, "I love you.....you are my sister/brother forever.....you are important to me....and I am grateful for you....Scooby Dooby doo.....I love you." The last part usually gets them giggling and helps get them over that last hurdle of their stubborn emotions.
Our kids need to know how to NOT hold onto resentment and unforgiveness. Be sure to teach them how to ask for forgiveness, not just say, "I'm sorry." When it is time to own their mistake, we make sure they get specific. "I'm sorry for hitting you and saying mean things to you. Will you forgive me?" The fights NEED closure. They need to be forgiven and then know how to forgive and move on.
Don't miss out on the incredible opportunity you have to coach your kids on conflict resolution while they are young. Remember, you are training them how to be an adult. It starts now....not then.