When dealing with disputes between your children, you must listen to both sides.
And never, never reward the first one to come yelling to you for help without having a firm understanding of the situation.
The one who states his case first seems right, until the other comes and examines him.Proverbs 18:17
You will be tempted to brush off disputes that you feel are petty. Or get to a quick resolution because what they are fighting about seems so stupid.
You toss off a quick “don’t yell at your brother” or a “stop hitting your brother” and then get on with whatever important thing you were doing before you were so rudely interrupted by your child.
But if you are going to teach your kids to appreciate justice, you must appreciate justice.
The child coming to you might be right. They also might be wrong.
Listen to both sides. Do not let one side interrupt the other while they are explaining.
Most of the time, things are a jumbled mess. They might not be lying but someone is stretching the truth, or there is a severe misunderstanding.
You have to make a decision with imperfect information.
Sometimes it feels like you need the wisdom of Solomon to raise kids. And on that note, don’t be afraid to pull a Solomon and threaten to “cut the baby in half” to try and get to the truth.
There are no easy answers here. But if both sides feel they have been listened to, things usually go better, no matter what your decision.
Above all, reiterate this: whatever they are fighting about is not as important as their relationship with their brother or sister.
Sometimes you shouldn’t give a ruling right away. It’s ok to think about it, especially if the consequences might feel big in the child’s mind. Pray about it. Sleep on it.
Then come back with your verdict.
A recent example.
We have two LEGO Marios. My youngest came up crying because he knew he had his LEGO Mario, but his older brother was arguing with him about it.
The youngest was hysterical, for some reason, so I made him calm down and tell me the problem without whining.
Then I listened to his older brother.
They started bickering again, and I cut them off. “Do you want me to keep both LEGO Marios for myself?”
“Then stop fighting.”
Thankfully, I knew exactly which Mario belonged to whom, because of certain wear and tear. The youngest did indeed have his older brother’s Mario.
He was a bit disappointed but took it in stride after hearing the explanation.
After I made them apologize to each other for raising their voices, they ran off to play again.