In this house, there is always someone coming to me telling me something like this:
“Mom, she just hit me.”
“He just told me that I’m a bad girl.”
“She is drawing on the wall.”
“He’s not cleaning his room like you told him to.”
“He’s not letting me play with him.”
“She took my toys.”
“She’s playing with her food and not eating.”
The complaints are endless and admittedly, I get exasperated at times. However, one redeeming thing is that I’ve been teaching the kids how to resolve conflicts on their own. Whenever a child comes to me to complain about his/her sibling, I always ask the child this question, “Have you talked to your sister/brother about it?” The answer is almost always no. I then encourage the child to talk to the offender first before coming to me. If the offender does not listen, then the child may ask my help to intervene.
The proper channel of resolving conflicts is based on Matthew 18:15-17
If your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault, between you and him alone. If he listens to you, you have gained your brother. But if he does not listen, take one or two others along with you, that every charge may be established by the evidence of two or three witnesses. If he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church. And if he refuses to listen even to the church, let him be to you as a Gentile and a tax collector.
If a child has a complaint against someone, he must clearly communicate the complaint to the offender. If the offender does not listen, then the child may appeal to the higher authority, i.e. mom or dad, for help. In this household, I find the children like to skip the initial stage and go straight to mom or dad. By having the children learn the proper way of resolving conflicts, it prevents tattling and further damaging the sibling relationship.
After some time of teaching and learning the proper route of resolving conflicts, the children are going to each other to speak first before coming to mom or dad. However, we still have another problem. Instead of speaking nicely and cordially, the kids almost always start with an irritated tone or use hurtful words. Naturally, the offender is now both the offender and the offended. So, we go back to square one. When you go to your brother to complain, do so with gentleness, kindness, and self-control.
We continue to teach, encourage, and model conflict resolution in this home. Though we fail many times in any given day, we persevere and keep doing what is right.