Often we think that issues, such as bullying, take place most often at school.  The truth is that the majority of these conflicts occur at home, between siblings.  If you are a parent with more than one child, I’m sure it’s not difficult to picture a time when your kids were fighting.  Why is this?

As humans, we are wired to dominate.  While our world has gone through many changes and become civilized over the years, our bodies and minds have gone through very little change.  Each of us still possesses the desire to rise of above others, dominate, win, achieve, and attempt to alter situations so that we can get our way.  It is only natural, in this process of trying to get to the top, that we will encounter conflicts with others.

The home is the perfect place for conflict.  Whether it’s fighting over the remote, choosing who gets to pick the restaurant for dinner, or who gets to ride shotgun, siblings can easily find situations where they want to dominate, creating conflict.  As a parent you have several ways in which you can respond to conflict.  I will focus on two with you.  As you look at these responses, as yourself which response is your “go to”.

When my kids have a conflict, I tend to…

A. Get involved and try to stop the fighting.

B. Don’t get involved and allow them to work it out on their own.

Let’s take a look at the intentions and the consequences of each response.

A. Get involved and try to stop the fighting.

INTENTION:

  • Teach your children that it is not okay to fight
  • Teach your kids how to share and compromise with one another.
  • To create a “fair” environment where each child has a turn
  • Show your children that you are there to help them solve their social problems
  • Maintain order and peace within your home
  • Simplify the situation, solve the conflict quickly, and move on

CONSEQUENCE:

  • It puts you in the middle or a situation that often doesn’t have a clear “wrong” or “right” response, forcing you to choose between your children
  • Positions you become the rope in the tug of war for power and approval
  • Forces your children to continue fighting for their way in order to convince you that they are correct, therefore giving fuel to their emotions and cementing their viewpoint/position
  • Places you in a defensive (weaker) position where you are forced to justify your final decision or risk relationship with one child or perhaps both
  • Teaches your kids that they should go to you to solve their social problems rather than solving it themselves
  • Adds a third person into the conflict/argument rather than just the two, creating a triangle of communication
  • Positions you as an ever-ready referee and judge, when conflict arises.

Now let’s look at the other response…

B. Don’t get involved and allow them to work it out on their own.

INTENTION:

  • You want your children to learn how to solve their own problems
  • You don’t want to spend your time breaking up simple squabbles but would rather only be involved when there is a serious issue that your children cannot solve for them self.

CONSEQUENCE:

  • Siblings learn that they must work out their differences and solve their own problems
  • Kids develop resilience while learning social and emotional coping skills
  • It doesn’t “cost” you any points in the relationship.  Rather than choosing a side, you are seen as supporting both children equally.  Your children learn that you are always there to advise them on how solve the conflict but you leave the actual working it out to them.
  • It prepares them to solve more complex problems on their own later in life
  • They find that mom and dad are there to help them but will not always intervene
  • It positions you as an ever-ready coach and counselor.

To summarize, my advice is this… When conflict arises between your kids, only get involved as a coach and counselor, never a referee. Only step in and enforce if your child’s actions cause objective harm (physical harm to objects or people).  By equipping your child with social and emotional coping skills and empowering them to solve their own social problems, you will help them face adversity, grow in resilience, and prepare to solve their own social problems both in and outside of the home.  When you do that, you will truly teach your kids how to be strong.

Get a Weekly Tip in Your Inbox

Tips for parents on issues impacting youth and how to best empower them.

You have Successfully Subscribed!