If you have more than one child, you are no stranger to siblings issues. They appear in a variety of shapes and sizes, but I have found that no age is immune to them. So, how can you deal with siblings squabbles?
Generally we as moms, we notice sibling issues because there is crying, whining, or yelling involved, which can be so much like fingernails on a chalkboard. I think I would be correct in saying that the knee-jerk reaction to these situations is just to make the noise that alerted us stop. To silence the spewing lava that is coming from any number or mouths or to calm the physical pain that has in some way been afflicted by one kid onto another.
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Yesterday I was prompted to think about some ideas on how to handle sibling issues. In reflecting back on the past 12 years, which is how long I have had more than one child, I recalled this as the hands down, most effective method. What made it effective is that it is not focused on making the urgency of the situation stop, but it is focused on a quieting of the heart and a shaping of the character.
Back when we didn’t have as many students as we do now, we had a separate room that we could use for this. However, now that room has been filled with desks, so I am coming up with a spin on this old classic as I resurrect this little gem in my home.
When children are fighting, there is almost always selfishness at the root. Whenever we are focused on self, we are not focused on others, which is exactly how we are called to be. I find that kids can rarely articulate their “wrong” in the disagreement right off the bat, but there is always an act of wrong on the part of each person since it is impossible to have an argument with yourself. Self talk, yes, argument, no.
The best way I have found to combat this focus on self is to allow the focus on self, but to challenge or direct it in a more healthful and productive way. This is where our peace chair comes into play. These are chairs that don’t really get much use in our house. They are relatively new, and I would like to keep them looking that way. So the act of being able to sit on these chairs is a bit of a privilege that is generally only allowed for special occasions. A special occasion such as this.
Both parties involved need to spend time in the peace chair. How much time you ask? No set time. The only rule is, they need to stay there until they can come away and take ownership of their wrong and offer a sincere apology to the other person. If they are too young for something this in depth, they need to stay there until they are able to act in a calm way and offer a sincere apology to the other person, or if even that is too advanced, a nice hug. My kids really don’t view this as a punishment, and it really isn’t intended to be, it is intended to be a time of quiet reflection, growth, and refocusing – refocusing on others rather than on themselves.
This is how we have created a peace chair, and how you can create one, too.
First, it needs to be a visually appealing area that exudes a sense of calm
This is why we have a candle that I will light, as long as it is safe with little kids being watched, and soft music is also a nice touch. Whether it is something like Enya or simple piano music, I find things without much in the way of words to be the most soothing. In our case, flowers are also an added piece of beauty.
Second, we keep a basket of supplies within reach
In this basket we keep a couple of notebooks and pencils or pens for journaling or coloring, a couple of Bibles appropriate for various ages, and some children’s books on appropriate topics that deal with things like loving others, being content, sharing, or speaking kindly.
You most likely already have a couple of these kinds of things on hand. I also throw a couple of what we call “kindness coupons” in there. Basically it just has “kindness coupon” written across the top with some blank lines underneath. This is where someone can write nice things about someone else, write an I.O.U. if they own someone a job or item of some kind, or my kids can use them to write out some “free service” that can be collected at a future time.
For instance, someone can offer to do someone else’s chore, just because. I do not require these be filled out as part of the peace chair process, but I certainly encourage it. These coupons are not used solely for this purpose, but we always have them on hand for other times of blessing others.
I think as moms we could all say that one of the things we would love for our children, is to be friends with their siblings. For them to want to spend time together long after we as their parents are gone, rather than going their separate ways once the “glue” that is their parents is no longer there to hold them together. Instilling a time of refocusing on others while encouraging true repentance during a conflict is a great place to start.
What could you put in your peace chair area?