Lately we’ve been super busy and out of our normal routine, so we’ve noticed that our kids have been at each others throat about–every. single. thing. Here are 3 Simple Steps to Help Your Kids with Sibling Conflict.
One morning after I had enough, I was determined to nip this in the bud before it got out of hand. So we had a family meeting to discuss this behavior. Our boys overall are great playmates but they go through periods where they are constantly unkind to each other.
In our family meeting, they all agreed that our home was becoming a “war zone” instead of a safe zone for each other.
Remember that family mission statement we came up with? Well here’s where it came into play in our daily life. One of the statements in our mission statement is, “Our home is a safe place…” so I mentioned that in our family meeting. I talked about how the unkind words they are exchanging are making our home a “war zone”.
Learning life skills…
I want my children to feel confident about changing their own behavior but also to learn to communicate with one another in a positive and healthy way.
Sometimes they think grunting and hitting each other is the only way to communicate. I’m not joking.
Most importantly, through the 3 simple steps below, our boys are learning valuable life skills — apologizing, talking things through, empathy, sharing their emotions and finding resolutions to their problems on their own.
How to Do “Talk It Out Time!”
One of the things I share with my boys regularly is that being angry, upset or frustrated with someone is okay and very normal. But it’s what we do with that anger that can get us in trouble. This is how “Talk It Out Time!” looks like in our home.
Download and print off this Free printable: Talk it Out Time and then tape it to the wall near where your children will talk it out.
What usually happens in our home is they agitate each other over silly stuff like–He’s looking at me funny. He’s making silly noises at me. He’s farting on me. I’m not joking about that last one.
Regardless, of how silly it may seem, they are upset because the other child won’t stop. In the midst of their frustration they burst and either yell or hit each other. So, that’s when I hear–
Here’s where Talk It Out Time! comes in. When the upset child calls for me and tells me that his brother is making fun of him, I simply say, “Sounds like you need to talk it out at the stairs.”
In the past, I would play the referee, but not anymore!
So they walk over to the stairs. I usually have the oldest start the process. The first couple of weeks, I walked them through the 3 steps. When I they got the hang of it I had them do it themselves. If they forgot what to do, I just had them read the printable as a guide to refresh their memory.
3 Simple Steps to Help Your Kids with Sibling Rivalry
Step 1. Oldest child owns up to what they did. Each child will say what they did by using “I” statements. It’s not a time to accuse or use excuses.
“I got mad and knocked your cars down .”
If the child doesn’t know what they did then they can ask their sibling for details, “I don’t know what I did. Can you tell me?”
Step 2. Other child then shares how it made them feel.
“It made me mad that you knocked my cars over because I worked hard at setting them up.”
Step 3. Apologize! Oldest child then apologizes. A heartfelt apology has 3 important steps:
- Acknowledge. “I apologize for knocking your toys over and taking them.”
- Empathize. Think back to what your sibling said in step 2. “I now see that it made you mad.”
- Make it right. “Next time, I will ask you to use the cars.”
Ask for forgiveness & forgive.
“Will you forgive me for knocking your cars over?” The child who was hurt needs to find space in their heart to forgive if they are ready.
This is what it looks like all at once: I apologize for knocking your toys over. I now see that it made you mad. Next time, I will ask you to use the cars. Will you forgive me for knocking your cars over?
Then you start with step 1 with the next child until each child has had a turn.
I was amazed at how these simple 3 steps were changing our home environment. They really don’t like going through the steps so they try hard to watch their words.
I was shocked when I had teachers stop me in the hall to tell me they over heard our child walking friends through conflict at recess time.
Give it some time!
It may take a while for them to get used to doing this because having you as the referee is so much easier. Keep at it and before you know it they won’t need you talking them through the process.
Each time they have a squabble or argue have them practice this process even if it’s not at home.
Does “Talk it Out Time!” work?
As I mentioned to you, we have only been doing this for a little over 3 months but my kids have the 3 step process down. I’ve even used it when we are out and about and they know exactly what to do.
It has worked wonderfully but not without any quirks and adjusting. This has curbed the sibling rivalry but this hasn’t kept our kids from fighting completely. They are kids so I’m not sure if any strategy will make it completely stop.
It HAS helped them communicate in the midst of the frustration and anger. And I am no longer a “referree” which just for that reason alone I am excited!
Remember, your goal as a parent is to teach and guide them.
Did you know that the word”discipline” comes from the root word “disciple” which means to teach. Here we are not only teaching them and guiding them on conflict resolution but we are helping them learn how to communicate with each other when they are upset or have wronged someone.
I recently came across an article by Richard and Linda Eyre who are authors of many great parenting books. In the article they shared this idea of the “Repentance Bench” which I thought I need to try this. Inspired by their idea I came up with–“Talk It Out Time”. This is what they say about their “Repentance Bench”–
It didn’t work perfectly at first. Kids would insist, “I did nothing wrong — it’s all his fault.” But after a few talks about how it “takes two to tangle” and discussions about teasing and “provoking” they started realizing that they would be on the bench forever if they couldn’t think what they had done in the conflict. ~Richard and Linda Eyre
It works for adults too!
I give workshops to adults on conflict resolution in the workplace. I would venture to say adults also need to learn how to “talk it out!” in a healthy way.
One day my husband and I were not agreeing on something silly and my son came over and said, “It sounds like you need to go to Talk It Out Time!” So, I guess we can also learn a thing or two along the way.