The Spill-Over Effect: Insight into the ‘Explosive’ Teen

Posted: October 12, 2011 in Uncategorized

If you’re a teen with a bro/sis…you’ve had your fair share of weekly battles and squabbles with your sibling.  If you’re a parent, you’ve had your share of ring-side seats to take in the daily ‘main event’ between your little darlings.  Everyday I see how my kids interact with one another, as well as with Amy and myself…and everyday we see new formations of problem solving and relational/social interaction emerging within our kids.  Sometimes we feel the need to step into the battle royale…and other times we stand back and watch them figure it out (although having to often either step in and offer ‘assistance’, or take some time afterwards to debrief their conflict resolution skills!).

I’ve yet to meet any family with multiple children who haven’t had to deal with meltdowns, sibling rivalry, arguments, fights (both verbal and physical), conflict managment…and all sorts of explosive and potentially explosive behaviors resulting from the natural tensions and spill-over effects resulting from a confrontation amongst siblings.  And if you have teens in the house….yikes…the stakes are raised to even higher levels.  The constant battle for freedom, individuality, identity formation, mood swings, relationship issues, school stress/tension, employment pressures, uncertainly of their future, hormones, dating…..yeah…you get the picture!

But what if all that conflict was not only natural, but a key essential in pre-adolescent development?  Well according to Jeffrey Kluger’s new book, The Sibling Effect: What the Bonds Among Brothers and Sisters Reveal About Us, that’s exactly what we should expect as the normal stages of teens growing up and figuring things out.  Check out Kluger’s Time magazine article for some abbreviated insight into his book.

…fighting is not just an unfortunate part of growing up, it’s an essential part. According to one one Canadian study, very young children engage in one fight with their siblings every 6.3 minutes — or 9.5 episodes of hostile shelling per hour.  All of the warfare serves as a sort of dress rehearsal for the outside world, giving kids a chance to practice conflict resolution and avoidance and the subtle art of knowing when to assert yourself and when it’s best to stand down.”  ~Jeffrey Kluger- Time Magazine, Oct. 10, ’11~

Much of Kluger’s study, stories, claims and outlook don’t provide a very optimistic portrait, and I’m not sure how much I really agree with the bulk of his findings (the final few chapters deal a lot with the aspect of twins, which is certainly do applicable to most…so there’s a likely tendency to become dis-connected with his work).  I do agree that parents need to take a few steps back to allow their kids to develop conflict resolution skills, rather than being too eager to always step in and diffuse every incident at first sign of tension and disruption (we tend to step in to make peace because it’s our own peace around the house that is being disrupted!).

What do you think Jesus would have to say to parents re: how we deal with sibling conflict in our families?  What is healthy vs. unhealthy boundaries we can set as to how we respond, and what we step back & observe vs. stepping in a reacting?  I’d love to hear your comments, and I’ll offer some of my own next week!

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