“Derrrriiiick!” The yell of my daughter penetrated the walls, entered my ears, and put my nervous system into a headlock. “What happened now?” I thought to myself as I walked upstairs. Just as I reached the top of the landing, both son and daughter zeroed in on me—like stink on a skunk. Then began the verbal boxing match. “Derrick called me ‘girrrrl’”—bam, a rhetorical slap across the chops. “Well, Cierra came into my room”—pow, a verbal sock to the gut. “Well, I was only getting something that belonged to me”—boom, an oratorical punch in the face. . . . And on it went. So I decided to use some cool logic to resolve this fight: “I tell you what, let me get the boxing gloves, and you two can settle this like men.” Heading back down the stairs to retrieve the gloves it dawned on me . . . letting them duke it out probably isn’t a good idea.
Any parent with more than one child has experienced similar episodes. A fight can break out on a moment’s notice. One child took something from the other or used the wrong tone of voice or laughed at the other and, before you realize it, they are going at each other like prize fighters. In such moments, what do you do? Well, I have a few suggestions . . . and getting the boxing gloves isn’t one of them.
Paul tells us that God has reconciled us to Himself through the death and resurrection of Christ. Before we trusted Christ in faith, we were God’s enemy. But now we are at peace with Him. And because this is true, God has given us “the ministry of reconciliation” (2 Corinthians 5:18).
To bring about reconciliation between warring children, the first thing to do is separate them by sending them to their respective corners—to their rooms or other locations in the house. Speak to each one individually, and try to find out the truth of what led to the fight. Sometimes getting to the bottom of each story takes Solomon-like wisdom, but keep probing until you are satisfied with their answers.
It has been my experience with my own children that one is rarely only trying to defend himself or herself. Usually, some measure of blame can be laid at the feet of both. Nevertheless, one child typically is more responsible than the other. With this child, explain in appropriate language the wrong committed and give a warning about consequences and when they will be carried out. But the key to reconciliation is notifying the child that he or she will have to confess the wrong done to the other child and ask for forgiveness.
Let the offended child know that the offending brother or sister will ask for forgiveness and that you expect him or her to forgive. Often you’ll have to tell this child that you understand why he or she is upset and that you are offering an opportunity for the child to be like Jesus and forgive the sibling.
Then bring the two warring parties together and give the offending child an opportunity to confess what was done and ask for forgiveness. Then gently prompt the other child, if necessary, to extend grace and actually forgive.
Assure both children of your love, and remind them to go about their day—the matter has been settled. Be sure to carry out whatever punishment you deemed appropriate, but, afterward, take that child in your arms and shower him or her with love. And then you, as the parent, close the book on the matter.
Fights are inevitable if you have more than one child. How you resolve these fights, however, can mark your children for a lifetime. If handled appropriately, they’ll learn humility, grace, forgiveness, and reconciliation. And when they have their own children, they won’t have to get the boxing gloves to resolve childhood sparring matches.