Teaching Your Kids Fair Fighting Skills

Studio 5 Relationship Coach Matt Townsend discusses how to teach your children to fight with civility.


Do you kids handle conflict like you and your partner? If so, then guess who you need to fix first? There is no better teacher for your children than you and your partner. Watching how you handle difficult conflict will teach them the skills they need. Many times we remove our conflict from the children and argue behind closed doors. Once you know you can deal with it effectively, try handling some difficult conversations in front of the children.


• Plan ahead of time. Like all great lasting plans, they’re made in the calm before the wars, not when you’re in the middle of a firefight.

• Involve all the dancers in the dance. Most of us are much less inclined to follow a plan we didn’t create or participate in creating. Involvement creates buy-in and accountability.

• Write this all down and review it regularly, before and after every fight. Depending on the fight you could call it a post mortem.


1. Talk About Desired Results.

Focus on the end goals …not just present problem. Focus on what you want it to look like, instead of just what you don’t want. Don’t just master the problems; master the solutions to the problem.

2. Make Rules and Guidelines

The rules and guidelines define the boundaries you have to deal with this issue. What absolutely is not tolerated, and what is? For example some absolute rules could be: no name calling, no raised voices, no hitting or throwing things!

The guidelines are specific guides, procedures or processes you might use to get through the discussion. For example, when a mom hears the kids starting in on each other she might agree to help the children to see their situation by following this guideline. She will give one warning by saying, “You’re starting to sound frustrated with each other. Please follow our plan and both of you take a time out and calm down.” They then should go to their rooms.

3. Take a Timeout. Timeouts are great rules.
Between the two of you, negotiate specifically what you should do when one of you calls a time out.


Teach your kids they’re responsible for their own actions. Comments, thoughts, interpretations/misinterpretations, feelings, actions/reactions, or thoughts will make or break themselves. They will be held accountable for whatever they choose to do. Mom and Dad is the final arbiter…but because we’re imperfect, I wouldn’t leave it up to them. In the end our standards, judgment and ignorance of the entire situation will decide.


What does everyone agree should happen if someone calls a time out and they keep fighting or causing problems? Usually, I found that people tend to think of harder consequences than you might ever think of. One consequence should always be a follow up conversation with both parties and a heartfelt apology. What happens when we violate the rules? Who metes out the punishment, how long does it last? Other consequences can apply like being grounded, loss of use of TV, internet, cell phones, whatever consequences you’ve agreed upon.


The key is to perform the dance as you had practiced. Learn what you can to improve. Alter the dance where you need to and refine, refine, refine.

Matt Townsend is a national speaker and relationship expert who uses his unique gift of understanding relationships to help individuals, couples and families learn the skills they need to better relate. Through entertainment and humor he teaches life-changing principles and skills empowering couples to change by learning to communicate more effectively, to stop patterns of negative reactions, and to get to the heart of important issues.

For more couple advice from Matt, attend:

Date Night with Matt Townsend

Friday, April 9

7:00 pm to 9:00 pm

$20 per couple

Location: Noah’s in South Jordan

To register call 801-747-2121

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