MFP 002: When Kids Fight

"Parents don't want justice- parents want peace!" 

Isn’t that how we all feel sometimes? We do want peace in our homes, but we also want to teach our kids how to handle conflict.  It’s a fact: kids are going to fight. How do we deal with that? Some suggest that brothers and sisters can refine your personality even more than your parents: “parents provide the outlines: siblings color inside the lines.”  When kids grow up with siblings, they learn how to deal with different personalities. But parents do need to exercise guidance to stop conflicts from devolving into chaos. We need to build a sense of boundaries and rules within our kids so they can learn how to solve disputes and mediate conflict.  Our overall motivation needs to be family unity–not “Peace at any price!” If the goal is to avoid conflict altogether, that can create more barriers and isolation. When conflict occurs, equip your kids to work it out. You may need to intervene more when they are small but give them the chance to decide how to work it out themselves instead of always acting as judge. It’s good for them to both develop a sense of ownership and the responsibility of sharing.  There are different strategies for different ages. Make sure that the punishment fits the scope of the crime. Scale the consequences. The lessons learned from conflict can bring about greater unity among your family, so be encouraged!


Key Takeaways

  • It’s normal for kids to fight. 
  • As Catholics, our home needs to be a school of virtue: here is where your children will learn lifelong lessons in how to deal with other people. 
  • Give your children a sense that they are part of a family unit that needs to learn to get along. 
  • Channel conflict into greater unity. 
  • Even small children can learn how to take turns with a toy. Give them words: “When I am done with it, you can have it.”
  • Especially when children are small, parents need to intervene immediately and punish children if they hurt others by biting, pinching, etc. 
  • Teach the words: “I’m sorry that I ____________. That was wrong of me. Will you forgive me?”  The correct response is “I forgive you,” not “That’s ok.”
  • Elementary children can sometimes work it out by fighting, especially boys.  
  • Teenagers might need more guidance in reconciliation, especially for girls.
  • Draw boundaries for conflict. We don’t allow “I hate you,” “Shut up,” or hateful speech.
  • Take a few minutes for emotions to defuse if necessary. Encourage them to show a physical sign: hug or shake hands after reconciling.
  • Model forgiveness for them by apologizing if you do something wrong to them. It’s humbling for a parent but necessary.


Couple Discussion Questions

  1. How do we react when our kids fight?
  2. Do we have a method for having them reconcile?
  3. How good are we at apologizing to our children or our spouse when we have failed in some way?