“NO!! Give that back!”
“I’m looking at it right now, I’ll give it back in a little bit.”
“NOOO!!,” my son screams, “GIVE IT BACK NOW!!”
As usual, I grip the steering wheel and take a few deep breaths. My kids are fighting in the car… again.
It grates on my nerves.
It makes my stomach churn.
“OK, stop yelling, please. Right now. You’re hurting my ears.”
“But mom, sissy took my pencil!”
“I get that,” I explain, “Please tell her in a quieter voice.”
When our kids fight, it sets us off. Not only because of the noise but also because of one other sneaky reason.
Our Dislike of Conflict
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In her book, The Curse of the Good Girl, researcher Rachel Simmons delves into our society’s preconception of how a girl should act.
Even though we’re grown women – and hi to all the men reading this, this not to count you out – but the “curse of the good girl” carries into our parenting.
Think about all the ways we’re taught to act that we accept as norms:
- Its more important to preserve a relationship then tell your true feelings
- Taking care of others always comes before yourself
- Conflict should be avoided
If you’re like me, you probably read these norms and thought, “NOPE! Absolutely not.” That is not how people should relate to each other. Those go against all notions of self-care.
But, wait for it.
Even though we think this way and may act strongly in a professional environment, unwittingly, we bring these beliefs home.
Have you ever…
I’ve done these things. So, know that if you have you’re in really good company.
Have you ever thought…
- I don’t want to start a fight. My kids are tired. It’ll be easier to unload the dishwasher myself.
- I can’t ask my husband to clean up the kitchen because it’s easier for me to do it. I’m just feeling lazy.
- I’m sick of having to do everything around here! Oh wait, I’m probably just tired and in a bad mood. I should be able to handle it all.
Then, we avoid bringing it up. We avoid conflict.
We think a happy family environment is free from fighting, devoid of arguing and everyone’s super-kind to each other all the time.
I admit it, the thought has crossed my mind.
When siblings fight, they wreck this.
Conflict is an extremely useful tool. When siblings fight, it’s not because they hate each other, but rather according to Simmons are testing conflict within the realms of their unconditional bond with each other.
Fighting is normal, natural and not something to be avoided.
Kids need to be taught ground rules and how to fight fair, yes.
But avoid it altogether? NO WAY!
Here’s what we teach our kids when we outlaw fighting.
Simmons says we impart a troubling lesson that:
“Conflict is a threat to the security of the home and your most precious relationships. I will sacrifice my needs if it means we don’t have to fight and can keep our relationship intact.”
I don’t know about you, but that rang true for me.
I do that. I avoid conflict with my friends, with my family…
I think… “This is a better thing not to bring up and to “let go”.
Then what happens? Usually, I become a raging crying mess and nobody knows how to help me.
Let’s teach our kids how to argue
It’s OK to let kids express feelings and anger with each other – especially in the safe confines of a sibling relationship.
Hitting and cussing at each other, not OK.
But saying, “I feel hurt that you took my pencil and I want you to give it back.”. Perfectly OK.
Try this the next time your kids are fighting.
Teach them the I statement which you can get in the Parenting Vault here.
In the I statement, kids use a sentence frame to:
- Express their true feelings
- Explain what caused those feelings and
- Request what they would like done.
It looks like:
- “Sissy, I’m mad when you said I was wrong. I would like you to stop.”
- “I’m sad when you said you’d play with me and now you don’t want to. I would like you to keep your promises,” or
- “It frustrates me when you steal and hide my pencil case. I would like you to stop doing that.”
It’s quick and easy. And even though it won’t make everyone happy right away, we’re teaching kids a way to fight fair and tell others what they want.
Plus, it also gives us an excuse to model it with our adult friends and with our kids so that everyone learns what upsets us and what we want.
Sibling Fighting can be Good
It can. When kids fight, they’re expressing their own personal needs. What we need to teach is how to fight fair and express their needs in a way that doesn’t escalate the conflict.
You can do that through the I Statement.