Conflicts between children in a family are common and parents should be prepared to handle them and be models of resolution skills. Three words are important in dealing with sibling conflicts: talk, listen, and resolve.
First, parents should encourage their children to calm down and then talk about their problem. An emotionally charged child will not be able to reason and react properly. Helping your child to calm down allows a child to manage his emotions and then be able to begin the process toward resolving the dispute. A child can do several things to calm down: walk away and return a few minutes later; count to 10 (or any number), slowly; or write down his emotions.
Once your children are calm, you can begin the process of talking to each of them. You may choose to talk to them together or apart. You will have to decide which way would achieve the best results. Encourage each child to tell his side of the story and how he felt and be honest while doing so. For example, helping your child to talk about his feelings is important: “I felt embarrassed when he called me a name in front of my friend so I hit him.”
While your child is talking, actively do step 2 which is listening to what is being said. Do not prejudge until you have heard both sides. If you are not sure what your child is trying to convey, repeat or rephrase his statements until you have grasped a full understanding. This will take time and patience, but believe me, it is well worth it.
The last step is helping your children to reach a resolution. Several experts suggest having each child genuinely apologize for his role in the conflict and then suggest a solution. Remember, it is best that they try to work things out between themselves and coming up with their own solutions helps them participate in the process rather than a parent imposing a resolution upon them. Whatever solution they agree to, make sure that you monitor them so that the resolution is enforced.
By helping your children to resolve conflicts among themselves, you are modeling and teaching them skills that they will be able to use all their lives, not only with family members, but also with everyone they come in contact with. Let’s face it- conflicts arise frequently, so assist your children to learn how to quickly resolve them.