Nail It Down

Over the summer, I asked about sibling rivalry on my forum
Our family has a fair share of normal spats. I’ll admit that the squabbling gets on my nerves and I now understand why it drove my parents crazy too.
In the book, Making Children Mind without Losing Yoursthe author Kevin Leman, suggests letting your kids fight because they are actually learning to cooperate with each other. He suggests sending them outside if you can’t stand the racket and instructing them to fight. Usually they just stand there without much to say. He also explains, it can become a screaming match and maybe even physical but kids will learn quickly that fighting doesn’t pay off, there will be consequences and that it hurts to fight.
Okay, so I’m not totally there. But I have been sending them outside and trying to back off some. (My hubby and I do peek out the window and we’ve thought about making small wagers on who will hit first).
I noticed that even when they weren’t fighting, there was some belittling going on. I watched one of my children take more a bullying role and the other suffered.
Someone shared an idea in my forum from the book, Creative Correction by Lisa Whelchel: When your child hurts the other with their words, rather than punish them, send them outside and ask them to hammer a nail into a piece of wood. Don’t offer any other explanation or punishment. Be consistent and do this for a couple of weeks. When you feel the time is right (or the board is full), ask the child to removed the nails with a the claw of the hammer. 
Explain that when we apologize, it’s just like removing the nails. 
And then ask: What is left on the board?
Answer: holes.
We can apologize for our mean words, but they leave marks.
This proved to be a very powerful illustration in our home and not just for our kids.  If I had to name one of my top weaknesses (there are many choices), this would be it: controlling my tongue. So it was a good lesson for me too.
My kids love each other deeply and I know that this showed them the power of their words.
Both good and bad.
Psalm 18:21 “Death and life are in the power of the tongue.”
Do your kids fight? How do you handle it? Because. THERE ARE DAYS…..
P.S. I was notified that my blog was named as one of the Top 50 Diversion blogs. I’m pretty sure it was a mistake, but it made me smile. Thanks for reading what I write. It would be lonely without you! 

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  1. 1


    Oh my…do my kids fight! My two oldest daughters (ages 12 & 10) can duke it out with the best of them! I actually worry when they do get along! They used to play together like little angels (years ago, mind you) and I am eagerly waiting for them to LIKE each other again! My 5-year old son is starting to get in on the action more & more and my 3-yr. old daughter copies everything he does. Seems like yelling is the only way to get anyone's attention around here anymore. I'd love to get this under control and think your idea of hammering the nails into a board is a GREAT idea. I will definitely be putting this one to use the next time I see a storm a 'brewin! Thanks so much!

  2. 3


    Great idea, thank you for sharing! I will use this for my kids as they get older. As for me, I have been having to tell myself Matthew 12:34 over and over. I try to watch what I say too much and don't really pay attention to what is in my heart. If I can get my heart where it needs to be maybe my mouth will follow. That's gonna take a long time :-)

  3. 4


    I struggle so much with my kids arguing and it becomes unnerving and I am going to do this idea. I want to be powerful and not a mean freight train that just gripes to stop the fighting. I appreciate your guidance and Ill let you know if it works.

  4. 5


    The nail idea is fabulous…my little one is just over a year, but I think it will come in handy in about a decade. As you said, a good reminder for us adults too. :)

    BTW, love Kevin Leiman. The Birth Order Book is fascinating!

  5. 7


    Brilliant, I have heard of this illustration and forgotten it… I think I need to hammer some nails myself, I think we all forget how hurtful we can be with words. Maybe I will instigate the family plank this weekend… I think it may well be a lesson we all need to take to heart.

  6. 8


    Oh yes, yes, yes. I thought that they were to young to fight, 3yr boy & 16mth girl. But no apparently I was wrong about that one. My son insists on pushing my daughter over, even if she is sitting there minding her own business.
    I am hoping as they started so young they will grow out of it , yes I said I am hoping (lol) :)
    I will be keeping your tip for later on though, sounds like a good one.
    Thanks again :)

  7. 9


    I love this nail object lesson!

    One thing that worked in our family a few summers ago when the squabbling got on my nerves was to remind them I had a responsibility to "not suffer my children to fight and quarrel" but to "teach them to love and serve one another." So, I had each child make a list of ways he would like to be served (help with chores, play a game, etc.). Then when I heard fighting, the offending party had to pick something from the list and do it. I think that happened maybe 3 times before the lesson was learned. (The kids were in their early teens, but I think it would be effective with younger children as well.) When you're loving and serving it's hard to be fighting and quarrelling.

  8. 10


    I remember reading this nail therapy in a forwarded email. In that story, it was for anger management, which has a little boy with bad temper. His father gave him a bag full of nails to hammer into the fence whenever he was angry. The result and the moral were the same! I never thought it could be used in this context as well. Makes perfect sense though; relationships are even more fragile. I like your experiment and the guts to carry it out! Teaching kids to deal with sibling bullying is a very good way of preparing them for the ‘big bad’ world.

  9. 11


    I'm saving that nail idea for when my kids are older. Do they fight? Well at almost 3 and 15 months yes. Is it bad that as I am getting their bath ready upstairs the other night I hear some banging and peak down the stairs to see my daughter banging my sons head into the wall?? *sigh* The sad part was he was laughing…

  10. 12


    That suggestions comes from the book "Creative Correction" it's by Lisa Whelchel. I highly suggest reading it if you haven't. It has amazing ideas to instructing/disciplining children. She has great scripture quotes too.

  11. 13

    LynnieB says

    I used to use another method in my Kindergarten classroom and will use is with my boys soon (they are 2 &3). It is a bit safer than hammer and nails. :)
    You give them a new piece of paper and talk about how pretty and whole it is. Then, we they are hurtful, let them scrunch up the paper into a ball. Now, have them smooth the paper back out. They can try and try but it will never be smooth again. It will always have the wrinkles or tears…
    Same object lesson, just presented a different way. :)

  12. 17


    Thanks for these wonderful ideas. My kids are just getting to the age of fighting and I know I've got YEARS to go!
    Congrats – I've loved your blog for a long time.

  13. 18


    Actually I like what both authors have to say. Maybe I should let my kids fight it out (within reason), and the hammering…really good idea!

    Congrats on the twitter ranking. I haven't got started on twitter, I'm more of a facebook girl, but I may have to check it out.

  14. 20


    I am a teacher, but this week I am off and at home with my two precious boys. Precious. But they fight! I had just read yesterday how I need to step back and let them handle it on their own, just like you said.
    I really like the idea of the nails. I'm gonna use that example at school. Thanks for your wonderful blog. Your style of writing has inspired me to be more poetic with my own blog, instead of just repeating what happened.

  15. 21


    My daughter's MIL had an idea I thought was very clever. She would have her squabbling children sit beside each other holding hands. They could continue to argue, but they had to keep holding hands. Usually it didn't take long for the giggles to take over.

  16. 22


    Oh yeah, my kids fight! I try to let them work it out, but it almost ends with someone getting hurt, so I usually step in.

    What they fight over is the funny thing. Last night, David (age 8) started yelling at Alex (age 5). They were supposed to be putting away toys. When we asked what was going on, David was mad at Alex because Alex was picking up the toys that David was picking up. I'm thinking, "Who cares? As long as it gets picked up, it doesn't matter who does it!"

    Anyway, I like the idea of the nails. My kids need to learn that the words they say DO have a lasting impact.

  17. 24


    oh, good grief. I needed this today. My kids are 6 years aparts, but they fight. Boy, do they fight. Everyone else I've talked to has made me feel like a loser parent. Their kids apparently do not fight.

    Right now, I pray a lot. I've tried a few things. . .Sometimes it helps if the stinker kid (that seems to be instigating) is given some one on one time, but sometimes that feels like you're rewarding the bad behavior. . .My hubs works away from home, which does not help the situation. . .

    I hope someday my kids will be able to show their love for each other, but right now, they're usually going at it. . .and I'm in the corner with blood pressure climbing. . .

  18. 27


    We have plenty of fighting…but my rule is unless there is blood or fire I am not getting involved. We feel like they have to learn to work it out. However, we haven't gotten to the 'nasty' part of fighting…yet. I'm not certian when it will come…but I'm certian it will come and when it does I will be getting out the hammer for sure.

    I really love Lisa Whelchel's book. It has great ideas throughout and, if your parenting from scripture, she always has scripture listed that deals with whatever the issue may be.

    Congrats on the award!!!

  19. 29


    awesome post!
    my kids do fight / 5 & 3 yr old.
    it seems to be getting worse as they get older.
    The board idea is something i never would have come up with.
    However i also think its important to remember that its a natural part of growing up.

    nice treat visiting your blog

  20. 33


    Thank you for this post! My little girl is only 2 years old, but I have learned not to get involved at the doctors office when she is fighting with other children. I only get involved if there is actually hurting going on (words and stuff). Kids do need to learn how to interact with each other and often times they are so much better at it then we think!

    I love the nails idea! What a way to make the idea stick!

  21. 34

    Jennifer Rizzo says

    My girls really get into it sometimes and I thought that they were the only ones! I will have to try that nail trick when they get a little older!

  22. 35


    My boys are 4 1/2 year apart and rarely fight. I have to say, I don't have this issue. My brother and I were terrible to each other growing up and it has actually made our relationship strained into adulthood

  23. 36


    I bought that book (Making Children Mind Without Losing Yours) for the title alone! That was at least twenty years ago. My two (boy & girl, three years apart) rarely argued, but there were some great tips in that book…and I have since loaned it out!

  24. 38


    Thank you for the post. The visual image of the plank is so apt. It made me think about me and how I've been made to feel through the years of bullying I experienced as a teacher from senior colleagues and what I'm experiencing now as I go through hearings and appeals. Maybe I'll take one with me and use it at my appeal hearing next week and say this is what they've done to me over the past few years. Powerful stuff. Thank you.

  25. 39


    I love that nail & board lesson! I'm going to have to use it over here.

    I've been trying to let my boys duke it out as well – and I do literally mean duke it out, they are NOT AFRAID to get physical – but most of the time I step in. I should send them outside. It's cold over here so I'm sure they'd resolve their differences fairly quickly LOL

  26. 40


    I've never heard of letting kids fight it out, but it sounds interesting. We don't have kids yet, but I always tell my wife to let the kittens fight because it's how they play and determine dominance and all that good stuff.

    By the way, love the nail thing :-).

    Another good book on raising kids is Shepherding a Child's Heart by Ted Tripp. I haven't read the whole thing, only portions to help me get handle certain kids I was working with better. What I read was very helpful.

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