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Kristen Bell explains how a “family triangle” helps her kids handle big emotions

Although she prefers to let her kids work out their (many) fights on their own, Kristen Bell revealed how she sometimes handles her kids' big conflicts.

Actress Kristen Bell has made no secret of the fact that her daughters, Lincoln and Delta, don’t get along particularly well. “They fight almost 100 percent of the time, which was a big surprise to me,” Bell told Today’s Parent in an exclusive interview last year. And although she explained that she does her best to let the school-aged girls handle the fights on their own, she’s now revealed one of the tactics she uses when she decides to step in to resolve their conflict: A family triangle.

“When my girls have a problem, and we need to talk it out, I’ve been applying what I call the ‘family triangle,'” said Bell on her new podcast, Shattered Glass, which she co-hosts with her friend Monica Padman (who also co-hosts the popular podcast Armchair Expert with Bell’s hubby, Dax Shepard).

“The three of us sit with our toes together—it’s our version of a circle—so they have to look at each other. I find so much more comes out of those conversations, where I’m trying to get these tiny people to talk about big emotions, because they’re having to face one another. It’s a powerful thing, the circle.”

Despite describing her tactic as a triangle, Bell references a circle because her podcast guest, feminist journalist and social political activist Gloria Steinam, had mentioned the power of circles when discussing some of the challenges she experienced in joining the political movement. “I’d been a freelance writer, so I had to learn how to be part of a group,” said Steinam. “The political movement helped with that, because the model is a circle, where each person gets to talk in turn and everyone else has to listen.”

Steinam went on to reference how effective circles can be when helping kids communicate: “If you go into a classroom, if instead of putting [chairs] in rows, you put them in a circle, it changes everything.”

Bell believes strongly in actively teaching her kids to resolve fights beyond just muttering “sorry.” In fact, she never makes them say it. “Sorry isn’t active,” says Bell. “If you hit somebody and all you have to do is say sorry, then you’ll learn that all you have to do is say sorry and then you’re out of it.” Her kids’ teachers taught them a better strategy: “Our preschool taught us to instead have them say, ‘What do you need?’ So we’ll say, ‘Ask her what she needs.’ And the answer could be: ‘I need space, I need a hug, I need a teacher, I need an ice pack.’ It’s usually an ice pack, to be honest.”

Bell also swears by having these chats at bedtime, specifically. “Someone once told me that kids’ brains are most open right before they go to bed, so usually before bed we talk about the fight. The conversation always pleasantly surprises me. Like, ‘I did that because she was annoying me and I couldn’t control my body but I know that I shouldn’t react that way. I’ll try harder next time.’ It makes me very happy.”

Bell and Padman’s podcast Shattered Glass can be found on Spotify. Shattered Glass refers to the glass ceiling that women everywhere have struggled to break since the women’s rights movement. In this ten-episode podcast, Bell and Padman talk to women who have made significant cracks in the ceiling.