Here is a great article we sent to parents in our ministry as they navigate elevated emotions as their kids spend an unusual amount of time together at home. No matter how much we love each other, being around a sibling non-stop gets challenging!
Do you know any adults who fight like a four-year-old? They throw fits and are emotionally unstable during conflict. Chances are, that’s where they learned how to fight and no one ever helped them manage conflict in a healthy way. Most of the time, our kids’ fighting is linked to something else going on in their lives that they do not know how to effectively communicate, so they lash out on their siblings.
If you have more than one kid, they will fight. They will nag and they will cause you to gain more and more grey hair. When your kids are fighting, how we react and respond will have a lasting impact on how they handle conflict in the future. We do not want to raise adults who fight like four-year–olds.
Here are five ways to react when your kids are fighting.
1. Stay Calm
This one is hard for me. I want to yell and make my kids stop immediately. Staying calm is the best thing you can do the help resolve the conflict. Cooler heads prevail and how you show your emotional restraint will help defuse the situation quicker. When you yell and lose your cool, your kids see that that kind of behavior is ok, thus they mimic and do the same. Stay calm, separate the fighters and let them calm down before you start talking.
2. Separate and Get the Facts
Obviously, you need to break up the fighting, especially if it’s physical. As the conflict manager in your home, you will need to get the facts. Do your best to maneuver through the emotions and get the facts of what happened. Don’t simply ask, “What happened?” A better question to ask is, “Are you ok?” By asking this question to each kid, you are not focusing on the situation, you are giving your attention to your child’s heart in that moment. After, asking “Are you ok?” then get the details of the situation.
3. Don’t Focus on Who Started It
Most of us want to fix the situation as soon as possible. In fixing the situation, we want to focus on who started what and go from there. When you focus on who started it, you are focusing on the wrong issue. Focusing on who started it only resolves one part of the conflict. Again, get the facts. Take time to try and figure out what’s really going on. It may be possible that the fighting is because something happened as school, practice or possibly something you said to them earlier in the day.
4. Show Consistency
There will be times when they are fighting and your temper will flare. I know I’ve done it. It is important to be consistent in your reaction, as hard as it may be sometimes. Consistency shows authority and that you are in charge. Consistency shows stability when they may be feeling fear and anxiety and the reason for the fighting. Like we said, often times our kids are fighting because a greater issue is going on. So always remember, constancy equals stability and leadership. You are stable and you are the leader.
5. Discipline Appropriately
If your kids are fighting over a real issue that needs discipline, make sure your discipline is appropriate. Don’t let your emotions get the best of you as the parent. Like the above point, be consistent in your discipline. The reality is you may lose it and discipline with your emotions. When this happens, do NOT be afraid to go back to them and make it right. If you feel like you went over the top, go back when things calm down and apologize. I once told my son that he had to stay in his bed all day because he yelled at his sister. That happened at 8:30 in the morning. At 9:00 I realized I took it a little too far and showed him what grace meant.