How to Teach Your Kids to Be Best Friends
A LIFE-CHANGING INSIGHT
Our two youngest children, Brandon and Kayla, are two years apart. When they were old enough to begin fighting over their toys, I was going a bit stir crazy running interference for every argument.
You know what I’m talking about: “Who had it first? Give that back to your sister. Don’t take that from your brother.”
One day I watched a documentary about sibling rivalry. I don’t remember who produced the show, but it changed my life!
In the documentary, siblings who were prone to fight were placed in a room without a parent present. During that time the children played graciously with one another. But as soon as mom entered the room, the fighting began.
Their mother attempted to bring peace and justice to their conflict. Amazingly, as soon the mother left the room, the siblings went back to playing peacefully.
In numerous case studies, different siblings displayed the same behavior. Researchers have determined that for some reason:
Children enjoyed involving their mother in their disputes.
It was almost like a game where each child would tried to “win” their mother’s defense. When mother would defend one child, he would “get a point.” And when mother came to the aid of the other child she was “awarded a point.”
The show ended by hinting that mothers would do well to allow their children to resolve their own struggles without getting involved, thus removing the children’s motivation to argue.
I decided I wanted to test this concept but add a biblical perspective to it. I told my children:
“Ephesians 4:32 says, Be kind one to another.”
I went on to say, “God commands you to be kind to each other. So, if you fight or argue you are disobeying God.”
I apologized to Kayla and Brandon for having gotten involved in their past conflicts, and informed them that from now on, I would not engage in their arguments.
I added: “The rule of this house is no fighting, so there will be consequences if you do not resolve conflicts quietly and respectfully.”
I promised Kayla and Brandon I would take away any toy they argued over, without asking who was at fault. As far as I was concerned, my goal for them was to honor the Lord in their relationship by not fighting, not administer justice every time they disagreed with each other.
Soon I had to make good on my promise, so I went upstairs to take away the toy the two children were struggling over. They were stunned, and pleaded with me to let them keep the toy. I said, “I can’t. Remember, I made you a promise. I have to keep my word.” I was determined to have peace in my home, so I stuck with my newfound concept.
Within a very short time, my children stopped bickering. Whenever I would hear their voices get intense over a toy, I would call out my familiar mantra, “Work it out.” I would then hear them start to whisper things like, “She’s gonna come take it away…All right you have a turn, then I will use it later.”
I know, the whole thing sounds so simple, but to enforce this new way of life required a lot of discipline on my part to change an all-too-familiar habit.
Peace reigned between Kayla and Brandon until the two reached puberty. Then their conflicts were not about toys, but about something one said to the other. Of course their arguments were magnified by the hormonal mood swings adolescents are known for.
My husband and I modified the consequence of taking away the toy to not allowing them to talk to one another. Because they were each other’s best friends, the punishment was excruciating – especially for Kayla, who loved to talk!
The last time we imposed the don’t talk to each other rule, Kayla and Brandon were grounded from speaking to one another for a whole month. What a long month it was–for all of us!
But the end result was peaceful communication between my two adolescent children. The conflict-resolution skills Kayla and Brandon learned not only brought peace to our home, but also translated into their friendships, and now into Kayla’s marriage.*
*Excerpt Moms Raising Sons to Be Men (Harvest House Publishers 2013)