Don’t forget to check out Part 1 of Stop the Summer Fighting.
Now that we better understand how our children are developing and why they might be fighting, it is time to take a look at the things we can do as parents to help with all the sibling squabbles.
First, evaluate your own behavior.
Do you play favorites?
Do you take sides?
Do you expect more from one child than another?
Do you have unrealistic expectations?
Do you compare your children and their accomplishments?
Take a minute (or 10) and really think about these questions. I know for me, I naturally put more pressure and expectations on our son, who is the oldest. I also find myself asking our daughter to give in to her younger sisters because she is a peacemaker. If I am not careful I cause resentment and one of our children gets hit with more than their share. The result, arguing and fighting.
Don’t promote competition.
- Avoid promoting competition amongst siblings.
- We shouldn’t label our children. (Remember, you gave them a name when they were born. Use it. Don’t replace it with “the smart one”, “the nice one”, “the pretty one”, or the slow one.”Labels can have terrible, long term consequences.
- Have your children work together. But don’t make everything a competition or race. We try to never say, “who can get in bed the fastest?” Instead, if they want to race, it is against themselves, or how fast they did it last time. We also have our children work together to accomplish jobs. Our daughter who is younger holds the trash bag while our son dumps the trash in the bag. Our daughter puts the clean silverware away, while our son puts the plates and bowls away.
- Praise your children when they get along.
- Acknowledge each child’s special talents. Kids are different. That is good. Recognize what each of your children are good at and help them cultivate that talent. It will make them feel special.
As parents we need to butt out. The more involved you are getting with your children’s arguments, the more they will argue. Kids need to figure out how to solve their own fights. If you are going to get involved, do it before the argument gets heated. Look for ways to keep the arguments from happening, but once they do, allow some space and let your kids handle it.If you have to get involved because the conflict is too escalated, be fair. Don’t take sides. Take the middle ground and only share your opinion when your kids can’t figure out a resolution.
Spend alone time with each of your children. A few minutes every day is the best, but at least once a week your child needs just you. Make this alone time special. Do what the child wants to do. Listen, praise, love, enjoy one another’s company. Families are busy so the best way to do this is to evaluate how your family time is spent. I spend one on one time with our daughter when our youngest is sleeping and our son is at school. Alone time with our son is spent each night after our girls go to bed. Most of our alone time is at home. Every few weeks we schedule something special to do with each of them away from home.
Distract. Parents can tell when their children are about to loose it. We know when arguments are escalating, when fights are going to break out, and when buttons are being pushed. When you see tempers are rising, distract and separate.
When there has been a fight or argument, let each child tell their side of the story. Children need to know they are being heard. Give each child equal time to talk and explain. As one child talks the other child or children should be expected to listen and not interrupt. When they are done, repeat what they have said so it is clear that you have heard them. Once you have heard all the versions, ask “What can we do to solve the problem?”. Don’t ask “who started it,” or “what happened.” This won’t help the situation or future situations.
Help your children develop friendships outside their siblings. Don’t let friends take over your family, but kids need sibling AND friends. When one of your children has friends coming over, give them space from other siblings. Especially as your children get older.
Role Play. Ask your children”…. how would you feel if….?” questions? This is important when you are trying to minimize arguments also. Help your children see other points of view.
As families, if we don’t help our kids deal with their feelings they will keep them inside and start to resent their siblings. Holding family meetings is a great way to go about this
. Set a time when everyone can sit down and work through things that “aren’t fair”, or that are frustrating. We have a family meeting once a month. The kids talk about all the things that are bugging them. It is controlled, casual and treats always follow. There is laughing and negotiation. Both are necessary in families. We start the meeting by saying nice things first. At the end everyone gives everyone else a hug. Another way to set these meetings up is one on one with a parent. My husband sits down with our kids once a month also. It is amazing what they tell him. They are honest and open and it provides a lot of insight into what we can do better as parents. Both of these situations allow our kids to express how they feel and to be heard.
Encourage children to solve their own problems.
-To do this, teach children to be respectful. That means no name calling, and take turns listening and being respectful while the other person talks. Everyone gets a turn to talk.
-Teach children to talk about how they are feeling, not blame others. “I get angry when you take my toy.” “I get hurt feelings when you say mean things to me.”
-Teach your children to only state the facts.
-Teach your children to solve the problem. In our house we tease that we don’t want to hear about the problem unless there is blood. :) When they come running to us, we encourage them to go back to the “scene of the crime” and work things out. Funny how they take care of things themselves nearly every time. With some practice they will feel much more confident taking care of their own issues.Lastly… here are some quick rules for arguing. Consistency with these things will bring positive behavioral changes.
- Don’t tolerate name calling, hitting or hurtful behavior in your home. Make consequences for these behaviors before hand and ENFORCE them. Enforce them every time.
- No tattle telling. When my kids come tattling I always stop them and say, “unless this is something nice that will keep your brother or sister out of trouble, I don’t want to hear it.”
- Don’t get involved. Unless I was there and saw what happened, I really try to stay out of it.
- No yelling. Again, yelling has consequences. Enforce them.
- In our home we also have a rule that you can’t take someone else’s things unless you ask. This has taken care of a lot of our sibling arguments.
It is hard to accept, but a lot of arguments in our homes are perpetuated by us. Yikes! It would do our families good to take a step back now and again and evaluate our own behavior. It can be eye opening.