Bible Study

“The 2 Steps” {a ridiculously simple system for solving sibling conflict} + FREE POSTER

Yelling.  Tattling.

Whining.  Hitting.

Arguing.  Bad attitudes.

The more we said “love one another” and “be kind,” the more our kids seemed to…well, not care.  Sibling conflict was at critical mass.

If you think about it, phrases like “be nice to each other” are not very specific.  And let’s be honest.  Even if you understand how “being nice” works, in the heat of being offended, if you have no plan, the situation spirals.

My small humans needed clear, simple steps.

We could not go on—the way they were treating each other, and even us parents, had to stop.  But I knew my inexperienced children needed some specific, workable guidance to make it stop.  So I got proactive.

These steps are ridiculously simple and obvious, and some of you might say, “Well, duh.  We say that to our kids all the time.  Why do you need a system for it?”

But does it work when you say it?

Stick with me, because having a system for solving sibling conflict before it happens and enforcing that system has been home-life-changing for us.  This has been our system for over 5 years now.  It is easy to remember.  And it works.

"The 2 Steps" {solving sibling conflict}

“The 2 Steps” {a ridiculously simple system for solving sibling conflict} + FREE POSTER


Step 1.  ASK NICELY.

(Go ahead, say it.  “Well, duh!”  Again, stick with me.)

If they took your toy, ask “May I please have it back?”

If they are bugging you, ask them to please stop whatever is bugging you.

If you want what they have, ask, “May I have a turn when you are done?”

You get the idea.  And may I just point out that there are plenty of ADULTS in this world that DO NOT have this down. So, this is worth working on.  We’re talking basic courtesy.  Life skills, people.

This may solve the problem.

I warned you in the subtitle.  Ridiculously simple.  If I can get my kids to remember to do Step 1, we usually don’t even get around the “sibling conflict” part.

If I can get them to remember it…  (Trust me, you’re going to want that FREE POSTER on display.  You’re welcome.)

Here’s where having a system and knowing how you’re going to enforce it comes into play.  Have a plan, mamas.  And be willing to put your phone down long enough to be a problem-solver with your kids.

There are NO other options here.

Here is where it gets unique to your family.  If siblings are having a conflict and they choose ANY other path other than Step 1, there are consequences.

Hitting your brother?  Bam.  Consequence.

Name calling and insulting each other?  Bam.  Consequence.

Some are spankers.  Some are time-outers.  Some are take-away-your-screen-timers.  Some are extra-chores-for-you mamas.  Whatever it is you do for consequences, make it consistent and expected.  The kids should expect that when they do A, B always happens.

The flip side of this is that there are blessings when they follow the steps:

  1. Keeps you out of trouble
  2. Keeps your relationships good
  3. Mama will randomly pull out the treat box for positive reinforcement

I recommend having a plan for consequences AND for tangible rewards when they are especially needed.

If Step 1 does not solve the problem, go directly to Step 2. 

Do not pass “Go.”  Do not collect $200.

Do not hit or yell because asking nicely didn’t work.  Step 2.  Now.


Here is how we like to word it in our home:

“Mom, I have a Daniel problem.” “Mom, I have a Sarah problem.”  Calmly.

Okay, can I just point out how hugely situation-calming this is?  Suddenly, we are problem-solvers together, even the child who has been named has the chance to solve the problem.  You see, they are not the problem—this is not tattling.

The conflict is the problem.  The name just lets me know who else is involved in the conflict.  We have a chance to solve it before the relationship goes bad.

As a mom, I have become all about helping them solve their problems.

I say to my kids all the time, “What are moms for?”  They reply with gusto and smiles, “Helping!”

You see, kids know they can’t solve all their problems.  They know that there are situations where they need adult help.  Not, “Just go play and be nice to each other.”  That might feel like we’ve given them parameters for behavior, but it’s not specific enough.  At least for my kids.

The adult asks, “Did you do Step 1?”

If not, we enforce the system.  You must go back and try asking nicely before asking for adult help.

In fact, in most cases, I define tattling as going directly to Step 2, without trying Step 1.

I will often suggest actual wording, because it may not be coming naturally.  “John, would you please stop singing right in my ear?”  “Katy, may I have the doll back, please?”

Then give the kids time to follow through.

If Step 1 is done, the adult asks the other child, “How can we solve this problem?”

Remember, the conflict—not the child—is the problem.  Your family can be a team of problem-solvers!  This follow-up question gives the kids involved a chance to think of their own solution.  This can often be more effective than what mom would think up for them.

If necessary, the adult offers solution options.

Here is where you really have to rubber-meets-the-road help these kids.  This is the part where you teach conflict-resolution and communicate by model how to be respectful—how to keep the relationship in tact while solving the problem.

Let’s raise a whole new generation of adults who have these life skills!

Remember, we are NOT going to play their games.  “Who had it first?” is not a hill worth dying on.  Is your goal the happiness of your children, or the holiness of your children?

The character you want to develop in your children is the foundation on which you build your sibling conflict solutions.  Again, this is personal to each family.

The adult chooses the solution if the children cannot.

Sometimes, the kids are not sure what to choose or cannot agree between them on a solution you offer.  So, you get to be the adult.

Choose a solution and enforce it.  One that makes them respect each other and be kind to each other.  Think of the  behavior you want to see in your kids and help them put it into practice.

They will very likely NOT grow up to be kind adults, if parents do not teach them how to be kind as children.

“Train up a child in the way he should go, and when he is old, he will not depart from it.” Proverbs 22:6

Does it always work?


Are we building the habits they need for conflict resolution as adults?


There are so many wonderful side-effects that I have observed as a result of this new habit, and spiritual lessons we are learning.

What about you?  Do you need “The 2 Steps” system plastered where you can see it and use it on…ahem, I mean with your kids anytime?  Scroll down for a printable poster you can display on your fridge, or wherever it will inspire you the most!

Please comment below with your thoughts on helping kids solve their problems.  We’re in this together!


FREE POSTER for “The 2 Steps”

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Growing Content Kids {Part 1} - Growing a Content HeartGrowing Content Kids {Part 2} - Growing a Content Heart

Sharing the goodness:


  • Barbara McLamb

    Thanks for this information. This parenting stuff is not for the weak at heart. For me, I went from having no children, to getting married to someone with 3 children. The last one was my first attempt at parenting and my first attempt was with a very troubled, very difficult teenager. Well, let’s just say I failed many, many times. Now, as you well know, we are raising her children. And once again, I feel like I am failing. I lose my temper and say or do things that are most definitely not like me when I’m angry. I am short tempered, depressed and ready to throw in the towel. I keep telling God I’m too old to be raising someone else’s children but He just let’s me vent and then says “ok, shall we continue?”. I’m tired, I’m worn, I’m ready for them to all be 18 and to not have to deal with it. The girls are now pre-teen and teen and the disrespect is getting the better of me. Satan uses it to push buttons that I never even knew I had. I have found myself having to go to my room just to get away from them and honestly, that doesn’t help. I still remain frustrated and angry.
    The saddest part of it all, is I’ve been blaming God for it all. I’ve been refusing to do what I know I should do. Yes, I’ve been acting like them. I know I have to begin by being the example. By spending time with God daily and making my relationship with Him most important. But frankly, it’s been a struggle for me, BIG TIME.
    This blog helped me to see that their disrespectful tendencies are normal. That we all struggle with it and we had to learn to be respectful and so do they. Even when they don’t want to learn it.
    So, thank you again for the information and the encouragement.

    • Susan Haines

      Oh, Barb! I feel this in my soul! Thank you for sharing your journey. It is hard when the life we have is what we never planned and is bringing trial after trial. I pray that you know God is good and has never left you. These steps came from a period of frustration, and just needing a simple system where the kids and I worked together on the culture of kindness in our home, and made us a team of problem solvers. That feeling of being a team about our problems is surprisingly effective. Stay in His Word, pray each day for God to make you the person they need for that day, and find things to be thankful for! You know how to find me if you want to chat!

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