If you have more than one child in your house you’re probably very familiar with sibling rivalry. No matter how peaceful or smoothly your children play it’s important we teach them healthy conflict resolution.
Some years ago I shared with you our Talk It Out method that we use in our home regularly to help with the conflict between our children. Recently I decided to condense it in a more catchy way so our kids can memorize it.
Let them Talk It Out
You may have a child who has big emotions and struggles with expressing their emotions in a healthy way or another child who avoids conflict at all cost and he would rather pretend everything is fine. Our simple conflict resolution tool will help children and adults of all ages but we must let them as parents learn to talk it out.
Notice we are not simply just saying “Work it out yourselves!” but we are actually giving them tools to talk it out with our “Talk It Out” method below.
Our Talk It Out method has worked wonderfully in our home for several years. It has also helped my children navigate conflict outside our home. I’ve even had teachers tell me that my children were helping other kids navigate conflict. It made me so happy because conflict is a part of our life no matter how friendly we are. You can see the original “Talk It Out” method HERE.
Even though it has worked wonderfully it did take some time from us as parents with being consistent and not taking on the role of “referee” but allowing them instead to talk things out. This was very hard for me at the beginning but it was worth working through it. With practice and modeling, we’ve become good at it.
Our rule of thumb is if you can’t ignore it or walk away from it then you need to talk it out. They must try those three things before we get involved as parents. The caveat would be that violence and damaging something requires the help of an adult immediately. You may need to tweak this rule of thumb to fit with your kid’s personalities. If you have a child who would rather ignore conflict or walk away from it to avoid conflict then you’ll probably not include the beginning part of our rule of thumb.
An Amazing Tip to Teach Your Kids How to Handle Conflict & Sibling Rivalry
Have you heard of “I” Statements? Basically “I” statements help you address conflict by letting someone know how you felt instead of accusing them. Our temptation is to go straight to a vague accusation –You are so mean.
I truly believe “I” statements are helpful for people of all ages. Because as you know conflict doesn’t end when we get older. Practicing healthy conflict resolution at home with the people you love is a great place to begin.
The one thing we do for simple conflict resolution is we have both children use “I” messages. So “I” messages always start with “I” because you’re sharing how you feel as a result of someone’s actions or lack of. This helps the other person not feel attacked because you are sharing how you feel not coming at them with an accusation. Then the person you’re talking to shares their “I” message that is slightly different and ends with asking for forgiveness. Children do not automatically know how to apologize so it’s important that we teach them this just as we would teach them to say “thank you” and “please”.
- The child that is upset will say:
I would like for you to…
- The other child responds with:
I heard you say that you feel …
I apologize for …. Will you forgive me?
Here’s an example of what it would look like if one child took a toy from another child.
The child that is upset starts by saying:
I feel really mad when you took my truck without asking. I would like for you to ask me before you use my toys.
The other child responds with:
I heard you say that you feel mad when I took your truck without asking. I apologize for taking your truck and hurting your feelings. Will you forgive me?
You can download this printable for free HERE—-> Talk it Out!!
Modeling and Practicing Conflict Resolution
Our kids need lots of modeling and guidance when you first start using “Talk It Out” especially if you have children who are used to stuffing everything and pretending they are okay or your exploders who are enraged at the drop of a pin.
Talk it Out is pretty simple but these are foundational steps in conflict resolution 101.
I have also used it as well in our home when I find myself feeling irritated but not sure what is happening. This encourages my children to use it as they see me modeling it and it truly does help me when I verbalize, label, and feel heard.
You will also need to walk them through the process the first month or so but before you know it they’ll be doing it all on their own. We have them face each other before they “Talk it Out”.
What happens when the other person doesn’t change?
It’s a good reminder for your kids to know that “I” statements are not magical. In the real world, the reality is the other person may choose not to acknowledge your feelings much less apologize. Just because you used an “I” statement doesn’t mean things will turn out as you wanted.
This is why it’s important to practice this at home where it’s a safe place and to remind our children we choose healthy conflict resolution for ourselves.
Regardless of how the other person responds or if it changes our situation we engage in healthy conflict resolution for our own well-being. It helps us become empowered and self-aware when we can label what is happening within us and to proactively share our needs. And not to mention it’s a peaceful way to move towards conflict resolution.