About seventy-five times a day, my kids devolve into fights, bickering, and taunting— over Barbies, over books, over kittens, and even sometimes over who looked at whom wrong.
It happens. I think all kids have conflicts with other kids, especially with siblings.
The first key to handling children’s squabbling is to not ignore it. As parents, it’s our job to encourage and lead them to react to each other in positive, fair ways that encourage cooperation instead of division.
It’s not easy.
Everyone with kids knows that they are emotional little creatures who each want their own way. (Doesn’t sound that different from adults, does it?) It takes bravery to be the person who steps out of the fight and deescalates the situation, and we need to teach our children to do this. Even kids need space to work things out and learn to stay calm or walk away when a situation escalates.
A good story to show our children the need for deescalating a situation is found in 1 Samuel 25 in the story of Abigail, Nabal, and David. I read about Abigail’s story in Brave Girls Bible Stories, a collection of important lessons from more than thirty women in the Bible. In reading this book, my kids and I learned how Abigail was brave enough to fix the problem her husband created and leave God to deal with him.
Let’s take a look at nine ways parents can help children learn important skills about conflict resolution and making peace with their peers and siblings:
Nine Brave Ways For Kids to Diffuse Conflicts
- Remind kids that it is never okay to hurt someone else. Even when you’re angry. Even when you feel that someone else has hurt you. You still have to play by God’s rules, and be kind and do not harm others.
- Slowly count to 10 before reacting. Taking a few seconds before you respond to a situation is always a good idea.
- Listen to the other person’s side. In James 1:19, Jesus says, “Know this, my beloved brothers: let every person be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger.” This isn’t the only place in the Bible where it talks about being slow to anger. Listening and finding out all the sides to the story is an important part of diffusing any conflict.
- Proverbs 15:1 says “A soft answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger.” It’s always a good idea to say you’re sorry – and mean it – when situations are tense. If there’s a conflict happening, you may have said or done something that deserves an apology. Be the first one to apologize.
- Tell how you feel, starting with the words “I feel…” It’s really important to use statements that begin with “I” instead of statements that begin with “you.”
- Walk away. There is great power and dignity in not responding to fruitless arguments. Help kids find their calm and encourage them to find some space when their emotions rise.
- Sometimes, you have to give in. No one likes this answer. It is never fun. But sometimes, it is necessary to let the other person have her way. Even when it seems unfair. Even when you don’t like it. Remember that Romans 12:21 says “Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.”
- I think this is the ultimate act of bravery. In Colossians 3:13, Paul says, “Bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive.” The Lord forgives us even though we are sinners. We need to forgive others even when they do things that hurt us.
- I think kids are much better about this than adults are. I know my kids can be fighting one minute, and then hugging the next minute. They get over things quickly. Leviticus 19:18 says “You shall not take vengeance or bear a grudge against the sons of your own people, but you shall love your neighbor as yourself: I am the Lord.” Holding a grudge is a sin.
There are so many great Christian children’s resources that can help teach these lessons! If you have a daughter, you definitely want to get your hands on Brave Girls Bible Stories and Tommy Nelson’s Brave Girls Devotional Bible. Both are beautiful, full-color books that depict girls and women as the brave action takers they are. I am totally in love with these books!
If you have a son, check out God’s Mighty Warrior Devotional Bible. It’s more of a devotional than a Bible, but it is full of stories and text that will appeal even to little boys to show them how they can be might warriors for God (from Judges 6:12).
How do you help your kids resolve conflicts? Which of these ways resonated most with you? Are there others we didn’t mention? Come share some of your thoughts in the comments! We’d love to hear from you!