3 Ways to End Sibling Bickering

February 12, 2014



Our kids in the 10th hour of a 12-hour car trip!

My wife Bonnie and I were talking on the phone the other day, and it was hard to talk over the bickering that was blasting from the back seats. “Wow,” I said, “they’ve really developed some bad communication habits.” She laughed. “Communication habits!? They fight non-stop!” She decided to do some research. Here are a few things she found that brought a little mini-van heaven.

Be a thermostat rather than a thermometer

The source of bickering actually starts with us. Kids are sponges. As parents we have to model peaceful presence and healthy conflict resolution skills. “If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone.” (Romans 12:18). Are we modeling a peaceful presence or an anxious one? Both transfer easily without a word spoken. It’s good to start with a self-inventory and make sure that we are modeling a peaceful presence to our kids.

Give individual time to each child every day

Spend at least 10 minutes of uninterrupted time with each child. Take turns choosing the activity. The goal is simply connection. It will serve as a “release valve” for your child if a strong attachment is there. It’s good to remember that we can’t deal with correction well when there are gaps in our attachment. Here, I draw from a principle that is often applied to marriages: weak attachment rather than poor conflict skills are the source of our problems. A child who feels love and significance is generally more cooperative and open to your redirection. As you keep pouring into their “love banks,” you will help deflate the need to get attention in negative ways.

Start a “compromise jar”

Enlist them into the change process. Positive incentives and behavioral reinforcement have their place. Here’s a good one! Whenever we see our kids arguing over something that they should be able to resolve, we remind them that if they work together to solve it, we’ll put a coin in the compromise jar. At the end of the month, they get to decide together how to spend the money. Our kids are saving up to spend an hour at our local trampoline park. Sometimes we have to intervene and help shape the process, but we do so as little as possible. If one child is undermining the process, he or she has to “invest in the fund” from his or her own spending money. Our kids have done remarkably well with it. It’s cut off many of the fights at the pass. When the children complain, we simply remind them of the compromise jar, and they get busy working on a solution.

Any other ideas? Please share!

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