One of my favorite discipline tactics for younger children is what we call the “repenting bench.” It’s another wing-dinger awesome idea from my parents.
They bought this bench at an old church for sale in England when we were young and put it prominently in our kitchen. Whenever we got in a fight we had to sit there with the person we were “tangling” with. Because, in my mother’s words: “it takes two to tangle.”
Back when I was young, we called it the “fighting bench.” But when my parents joined the bandwagon of “positive parenting” they changed the name to the “repenting bench.” Ha!
The Rules of the Repenting Bench
Growing up, when we got in fights we had to sit on the repenting bench.
And we stayed there until we could…
1. Take Ownership
We had to sit there until we took ownership of what WE did wrong. Oh how we itched to just rattle off all the bad things our “bench partner” did, but that wasn’t the deal. We had to fess up and take responsibility for what we personally did to perpetuate the fight.
We told each other we were sorry.
3. Give Each Other a Hug
I know, I know: that may sound like cruel and unusual punishment to have to hug a sibling when you still have hot tears smudging your face, and you are hurt. But by the time we had gone through what we did wrong and said we were sorry, the hugging part didn’t seem so bad.
I’m telling you, there is something about learning to work something out together that does wonders for relationships. It’s miraculous. And it’s ok if it takes a long time. Time is one thing most (younger) kids have.
I swear this practice helped us all become the great friends we are. It helped us take ownership of our actions and helped us bond together. Not only did it help us with our sibling relationships, but it’s helped us with other relationships in life as well. There is something about having to work to find that humility when you disagree that has so much power in communication.
find your own repenting bench
Of course, this idea does not have to have an actual antique church pew to work. We are not the proud owners of an antique bench from England in our family. However, we have found that sitting on a stair works just as well, or on the couch, whatever works!
It’s a beautiful thing.
Give it a try and let me know how it goes.
TIPS FOR HELPING KIDS LEARN TO RESOLVE FIGHTS
As always, one of the best parenting tips is to lead by example. Whenever our parents were in a fight, they would come out in the kitchen and apologize to each other in front of us. I loved it. Sometimes my Dad would even dip my mom down for a kiss, if he was the guilty one. Somehow it made me feel safe.
They would take time to really listen to us. Which in turn I think helped us to listen to each other.
Oh they weren’t perfect, but I think they did a pretty great job. Be sure to check out the podcast on sibling relationships for more tips. Also, I think the one on “How to Control Your Kids” (that title is tongue in cheek just in case you’re worried…) talks about the repenting bench too!
MORE Parenting Hacks You’ll Love
I love working to figure out the puzzles to this parenting business. Here are some other posts that you might enjoy.