Is Conflict Resolution Part of Your Socialization Curriculum?
Sibling relationships can be tricky, especially for homeschool families. Learn conflict management strategies good enough for any dispute resolution center.
Aside from pursuing a degree as a professional mediator, there are things a homeschool parent can do to use sibling rivalry as part of the lesson plan. In fact, according to psychologist Carl Pickhardt “Fighting is not a sign of children not getting along. It is how they get along – using conflict to test their power, establish differences, and ventilate emotion with a familiar family adversary.”
Where does that leave the parents, then? How can parents react to sibling rivalry in a way that teaches the children to resolve issues with less conflict? How can children be taught to express themselves, even their unhappy or angry feelings, without being destructive or “hitting below the belt?”
Lay Down the Law
According to Grace Stopani, of Focus on the Family, drawing a line in the sand against insulting language or hurtful words is important. She teaches that negative statements are remembered longer than positive ones. “Words are extremely powerful.”
It’s also important to make it clear that violence will not be tolerated. In a New York Times article entitled “Sibling Violence; A Family Secret,” David Finkelhor, a sociologist at the Family Research Laboratory at the University of New Hampshire, tells Katy Butler “There are very serious forms of, and reactions to, sibling victimization… If I were to hit my wife, no one would have trouble seeing that as an assault or a criminal act… (but) when a child does the same thing to a sibling, the exact same act will be construed as a squabble, a fight or an altercation.” Parents who want to avoid sibling abuse, might want to simply create a “zero tolerance” standard of relating without violence, for all family members.
Learn the Language of Peace
Teaching children to use “I statements” can help them express their negativity without blame or unnecessary anger. An example of an “I” statement would be “I feel____ when you ____ and I’d like you to ____.” A properly phrased “I” statement can be a powerful tool for resolution. Not only does it state the problem, it tells the emotion of the speaker, isolates the exact name of the offending behavior and offers up a solution for the next time the situation arises. Practicing using the statement during peaceful times can make it easier to remember under stress.
Catch Them Getting Along
In the spirit of positive reinforcement, a well-timed compliment or word of praise can encourage children to continue getting along. Begin by empathizing with the child; “I know you weren’t very happy with her when she dropped your iPod.” And finish the statement by naming the behavior, and complimenting him. “I think you did a great job of understanding that it was an accident, letting her apologize, and not getting too angry about it. Great job, thank you so much.”
Consider Character Education
There are many character development programs available both in book and workbook format and in video. Some of them aim to increase children’s communication skills. Learning to cope with social relationships and empathize with others is a skill that can be as important as any academic pursuit. The teaching guides that accompany these programs rely heavily on the discussion. A parent could emulate such teachings by consistently discussing or writing about the social dynamics of conflict witnessed on television, and in stories.