How I’m Teaching My Kids to Stop Fighting This Summer

This has been a summer of much conflict in our home.

From the day we stopped homeschooling for the summer, and started our holidays, the level and frequency of conflict increased dramatically.

Judging by what I hear from other moms, we are not alone in this.

It’s understandable – there’s so much time suddenly for spending a lot of time at home with siblings, with much less structure.

But I felt like I was losing my mind, just a bit.

What annoyed me even more than the fact that I was losing my mind, was the common response to all of this:

Kids just fight. It’s normal – get used to it.

Let them figure it out on their own – it’s good for them.

Just increase your tolerance.

I listened to all of that for awhile, until one day it suddenly hit me – It goes against what I believe about parenting, and raising children who will be godly adults some day.

I believe in training children to become awesome adults. (I don’t expect that to happen all on it’s own.)

I believe in using Biblical truths when training my children. (Peace and unity are taught in the Bible. I think they’re pretty important.)

If something is wrong, and it’s hurting my heart, I believe in standing up and doing something about it. (Not turning my head and ignoring the situation until it passes.)

Yes, there is such a thing as “natural behaviour”. But as Christians, I believe we can long for the supernatural.


I know I’m not an expert on parenting. Most days, I’m at a complete loss, and don’t have a clue. If I look like I know what I’m doing, I’m probably faking it.

But here’s what I do know: Conflict is a part of life.

It would be unrealistic to expect my children to play perfectly together, every single moment of the day. HOWEVER, as their mom, I believe I can do a lot to teach them how to have healthy conflict, and solve problems in ways that will equip them for being adults.

I’ve witnessed a lot of conflict between adults. After being in full-time ministry for over 10 years, we’ve seen some things. I’m still learning, but I know of a few things we’ve learned along the way, which I am trying to teach our girls right now, that work equally well for adults or children:

1) Almost anything can be expressed, as long as it’s expressed in the right way.

This tidbit of wisdom was given to me by someone whom I really admire when it comes to self-control, living with intention, and choosing words wisely.

I’m not a fan of holding things inside. Emotional constipation has never worked well for me.

However, letting all those emotions burst forth all over another person can become extremely messy.

But when we can express our thoughts and feelings in a calm, reasonable way, we build bridges of understanding. I’m still learning to do this myself, but I believe in giving our girls a head-start. Children are capable of calmly expressing their needs to each other, but they will most likely not do this naturally, of their own accord.

My friend gave me a great tip: Teach them to use a “bug” and a “wish”.

“It bugs me when _______________. I wish you would ________________.” (Seriously don’t think this would be a bad idea for some adults, either…)

I’ve been trying to use this a lot over the last week, and it’s been working wonderfully with Anika. Kaylia, not so much. She didn’t seem to be catching on, but suddenly one morning, when Anika was hugging her a bit too tightly around the waist, Kaylia surprised us all when she burst out, “Anika, it bugs me when you choke me! I wish you’d go choke someone else!!!”

I think she gets it now. I have some work to do in other areas, though, it would seem…

2) Look for ways to “lower the temperature”, as quickly as possible.

When everybody is all fired up, nothing is going to process well. Anika will be all loud and worked up about something Kaylia’s done, but she finds it hard to hand the situation over to me. It’s worked really well to explain things to her by comparing fights to temperature.

“What temperature is it in here right now – hot or cold?”

“How can we lower the temperature so everyone calms down enough so we can discuss this?”

(This has also been an extremely uncomfortable reminder to myself to keep my own “temperature” down! You can’t yell that line to your kid, with a clear conscience…)

3) Time alone for a little break can be a good thing – not a punishment.

Everybody needs a break sometimes. When things are crazy, I separate the girls, which Anika always took as a “time-out”. I explained to her that it wasn’t a punishment – it was just a way to distance herself from the things that were upsetting her.

Time alone before things get bad can also be really helpful. Even adults get sick of each other if they overdo time spent together. It sounds ridiculous, but before we ever left on our honeymoon, Ben and I decided we would take one afternoon during our trip to spend time alone.

It was an amazing afternoon. We were staying at a bed and breakfast in Victoria, and I spent an hour doing my devotions (which had been very neglected during our honeymoon!) in the beautiful garden. Afterwards, I played piano for a long time, never knowing that Ben heard me, and sneaked down the stairs to sit and listen to me playing.

After our alone time, it was great to be together again – we had new thoughts to share, and felt refreshed and ready to continue enjoying our trip. Being alone for a bit made being together again even nicer.

Learning to enjoy being alone, as well as learning to recognize the need for it, is a skill I want our girls to learn.

4) God offers us peace in every situation.

A few weeks back, as I was wrestling with how to keep my sanity this summer, I was praying about the fighting, and asking God to show me what in the world I was supposed to do.

Instantly, a picture came to my mind of me rushing over to my fighting girls, laying a hand on each of them, and praying out loud, “Father, where is your peace in this situation?”

I would never have come up with such an idea on my own. But as I thought about it, I realized this strategy would accomplish a few things:

  1. It would teach my girls that prayer is always the first and best answer, in any situation.
  2. It recognizes the fact that there is peace in every situation. God longs for us to live in unity, and I believe He always provides a way for us to find it, if we look to Him, and pray for the wisdom to rise above what’s natural and human. He always offers a supernatural peace.
  3. Instead of one girl against the other, I form a bridge between all of us as we look, together, to God. Suddenly, we’re kind of on the same side as we search for the peace. We get our heads together as we try to find a strategy, a compromise to which everyone can agree.

(I don’t do this every time. I’m still learning, too. We’re all practicing.)

Maybe the best part in all of this is that I no longer feel as though I’m helpless and frustrated as I repeatedly watch my children fighting and hurting each other. Now I have a plan. I have tools. I have a clear picture in my mind of what I want to accomplish, and I know this: It will not happen if my children are left to themselves.

Sure, they may learn to work things out, but in what way? If some adults don’t even know how to work through conflict in a healthy way, how are children going to figure it out? I am of the opinion that they must be taught, and they need tools.

I can try to do that for my girls.

What are your strategies for resolving conflict, with adults or children?!

Leaving Room For Weakness

Ben once had the opportunity to meet a well-known pastor who preaches some of the best sermons we’ve listened to online. He’s written a great book, and whenever we listen to his messages, we continually find him to be full of wisdom and wit, with a very warm, approachable style. I always imagined he would be a very charismatic in person, and was a little disappointed when I heard that Ben would be meeting him without me.

But the most interesting thing happened. When Ben met this amazing, gifted pastor, he turned out to be quite socially awkward – not what Ben was expecting at all! They awkwardly conversed for a short time, and then the pastor had to go on stage to address the congregation.

Ben said it was the most amazing transformation – that socially awkward man turned back into the warm, passionate, charismatic preacher that Ben was used to listening to online.

I eagerly listened to Ben’s description of this transformation, not just because I would have loved to have been there myself – I drank it in because it gave me great hope.

I know what it feels like to swing from strength to weakness, and back again, wishing that those mountain-top experiences could just last forever.

Sometimes I feel confused about the balance of strengths and weaknesses in my life. Sometimes I wonder why God chose my combination of personality and giftings. I might have chosen differently!

And I was reminded of it again this week. I was invited to speak at a girls’ club event at my sister’s church in Altona. Although I have done that kind of thing often, I’ve never done it with a group of kids. But the whole thing was incredibly fun, and I enjoyed myself immensely.


God is awesome that way. We do what we’ve been gifted to do, and He makes it so much fun!

So I go out, and do my speaking/teaching thing, and every time, I experience such joy, such an energy, and a feeling that I’m doing what I was born to do. And I always think to myself, “I wish I could do this for the rest of my life.”

And then it ends, and I put down the microphone, or my audience moves on to the next thing, and I transform back to the usual, little old me, with my feelings of insecurity, and my tendency to feel slightly socially awkward in large group settings.

Lots of the time, that’s the part where I wonder why God didn’t make me super outgoing and bubbly, with a ton of natural energy, fed by large groups of people.

Why did He make me an introvert, preferring one-on-one conversations, and needing a ton of down-time for every loud, people-filled event? It makes my own “transformation” quite jarring, most times.

I want to question His judgement, but then I remember that pastor, and I think to myself that if he can find his way through, so shall I.

And I realize that there is much wisdom in this experience of shifting from strength to weakness:

God is strong in our weakness.

Because these spiritual gifts come from Him, it is amazing to me how God-given strengths shine more clearly against the backdrop of our human weaknesses.

It seems so freeing to me, once I get past my desire to appear strong and perfect in all areas, to think that I don’t have be able to do everything, or know everything, or be everything. My weakness lets other people see what I would truly be like all the time, if I didn’t ever get some help from the Holy Spirit. I could start pretending that those moments of divine intervention were really me. How wonderful that God keeps it from happening!

We need others in our weakness.

If we could do it all on our own, we probably would. And God knew that. It must be so beautiful to Him when we help each other out, and work together in love and unity.

I think of how it makes me feel when my girls are playing peacefully together – life at home seems pretty much perfect. Multiply that many times over, and we probably still can’t ever understand how God feels when we work together, and rely on each other.

I went to that girls’ club event, and I absolutely loved every minute of sharing with them. And then I loved every minute of watching my sister using some of her strengths, as she headed up the crafts time afterwards – every detail in place, every ribbon and paper cut as neatly and precisely as could be imagined. She coolly and calmly sails through challenges, always efficient. I was so thankful to her for saving me from details. Details stress me out to no end, and suck the energy out of me.

She seems to thrive on handling details. Although we may be sisters, it is extremely obvious to me that we were made to fill different roles in life. And this week, that was wonderful. Every time we talked on the phone to co-ordinate things, I was so thankful for the way in which she took care of details so that I could focus on preparing my little talk.

And then the next morning, I did the same talk at our homeschool group, but this time it was my sweet friend Becky who took care of all the details. She did it in a completely different way than my sister had, and it was just as wonderful.

When we are willing to step out and share our strengths, we free others from having to work out of their weakness. Everybody gets to do what is life-giving to them, and the job gets done together.

I love the feeling of it. But I wouldn’t ever get to experience it if I didn’t have any weaknesses. I wouldn’t fully appreciate others’ strengths. I wouldn’t be reminded that “my” strengths aren’t really mine, anyway.

And that is what has been giving me joy and freedom this week.

So, tell me – What do you wish you could be freed to do for the rest of your life?