September 9, 2012

Managing Sibling Fights

"Dad! She hit me!"  "He called me dumb!"

 "Mom! He's thinking about touching me!" 

Do those phrases sound familiar? Have you tried everything to stop the fighting yet it's still happening? It's inevitable that siblings are going to squabble but it often has parents wondering why it happens and what they can do about it. 

There are many reasons why siblings fight. They might be tired, hungry or bored. During winter months when days are short and time outside is limited siblings may be spending too much time together. If the fighting doesn't let up maybe it's time to have them take a short break from one another, feed them a healthy snack or help them find something different to do.

It's also possible they're fighting because it gets your attention. If it's late in the day and you're cooking dinner, feeding the baby and trying to finish laundry, your other children might need some attention from you. They act up knowing it will get a reaction from you. I suggest you stop what you're doing and give them your undivided attention even if it's only for ten minutes.

If the squabbling doesn't involve one child hurting the other you may want to try and ignore what's happening. If it's a petty argument don't get involved. See if they can find a solution. If the arguing escalates you will need to step in. Separate them so they have some physical space from one another and ask each one to tell their side of the story. Your job is to listen and to validate what they're saying. "You're mad because she came into your room without asking." "You're mad because he wouldn't play with you.' Don't choose sides. Ask them what they can do to solve the problem. If they're unable to come up with a reasonable solution you will have to offer one. You may have to teach your children how to make deals with one another.

Teach your children how to play with one another. Show a younger child how to ask his older sibling "Would you play with me?" Provide different activities that children of different ages can do together such as play dough or blocks. Teach them how to trade toys instead of grabbing what they want.

One of the best ways to prevent siblings from fighting is to avoid comparing your children. That's one of the big reasons why siblings fight with one another. "Why can't you be more like your brother?" "Your sister gets better grades because she studies harder than you." Hearing comments like that encourages a child to become competitive with siblings which can lead to even more fighting.

Take a close look at how you are responding to the sibling fights. Are you coaching your children or have you resorted to being a referee? If you're a referee you're putting out fires instead of finding resolutions. If you're a coach you helping your children learn to give and take, cooperate and compromise. 

Sibling fights are inevitable. How you manage them can make a difference in how your children treat one another and solve their conflicts.