Put siblings in a confined space for very long and conflict usually erupts. Often it’s over something silly, like someone breathing on someone else, chewing too loudly or crossing an imaginary line. Sometimes though, there are legitimate differences of opinions or grievances.
Unfortunately, most parenting experts give the very worst advice on managing sibling conflicts. The “let them work it out on their own” philosophy has reigned for many decades now and our society has become the worse for it.
Godly, effective conflict management skills will rarely be figured out by two five year olds in conflict. Or even two adults. It’s a skill set that isn’t complex, but must be taught. If you and your spouse have wonderful conflict resolution skills, your kids may learn them from observing you resolve your conflicts.
For the rest of us who grew up learning to “work it out on our own”, we probably demonstrate as many bad conflict resolution skills as good ones. So what are godly conflict resolution skills? I can’t take credit for these steps, but they are considered the standard in effective conflict resolution.
1. Give your kids time alone to calm down. When emotions are running high, conflict resolution is unlikely to happen in godly ways. Allowing everyone time to regain their self control is key.
2. Have each child think about how they feel and why they feel that way. It’s important for kids to begin to analyze why they feel the way they do. Are they really that upset at what happened or was it just the last straw in a bad day?
3. Teach your kids to calmly tell each other how they feel, using the
following sentences. “I feel ___ when you ___ , because ____. I would like ____. It’s important for them to use this exact wording until they get used to this step. If they begin to use other language, it may be necessary to back up and start at step one again.
4. Do not let your kids use ugly words when talking to each other. Name calling, using absolutes like “always” and “never”, cursing and other negative words rarely deescalate conflict.
5. Have each child repeat what the other child wants and needs
in their own words. Often conflict is worsened because people stop listening. This step forces each person to listen until the other person believes they have been heard accurately.
6. Let each child tell their wants and needs again if they believe they were not restated correctly.
7. Have your kids list as many possible solutions to the problem as possible. In most conflicts, the people involved only see two possibilities…their way and the other person’s way. In reality, there are often many other options that would make both people happier. Teaching your kids to seek those extra options is key.
8. Help your kids pick the solution that will help everyone get what they need. Notice the word is “need”. Everyone may not get what they want, but most of the time it is possible to give everyone what they truly need.
Godly conflict resolution requires teaching, guided practice and real life practice. It takes time and hard work, but if learned successfully, these skills can improve most relationships.
Note: Click here for a printable version of these steps.