Parenting Squabbling Siblings – Tips
I’m pretty sure the summer vacation was only about an hour old when the squabbling siblings started.
It’s not that my 3 kids don’t fight any other time but it seems so much more intense during holidays because they are together more often and for greater blocks of time – there’s no school to interrupt – no distance to make the heart grow fonder!
The only two that don’t normally engage in constant battle are the oldest (Pie) and youngest (The Girl). Fights between those two are few and far between which makes me wonder if perhaps 8 years is a good gap between kids!
The Girl and Dervish are the worst. Probably their similar intense temperament and intense personalities makes their squabbles so much more passionate and LOUD.
It was a peaceful morning. It’s been raining. We had breakfast of waffles and then because the Dervish has been interested in jokes, I found a kids joke site and rhymed off countless one liners for his amusement. Everything was going so well. We discussed the potential activities for the day which included movie watching and the PS2 soccer game we’d rented (since it was raining). Then the rain stopped and I suggested they go out bike riding while they could.
The next thing I know there is a horrible ear piercing shriek (unmistakably The Girl’s angry frustrated shriek) I let that one slide. A few minutes later, another and then another. Sigh. I go out to see what the issue is and find them both standing in the shed.
The Girl is very obviously struggling to undo the clip on her bike helmet – easily resolved, I release the clip. Then the chorus of “he did” “she did” starts. In short order I get that she wants her bike in the shed to keep it dry – he knows bikes don’t go in the shed and is preventing her from putting it there. Ok, no, bikes don’t go in the shed – yes, your bike might get wet but yes, it will dry. Problem solved.
The question is, should I be in there resolving each and every problem? No.
Discipline is teaching and as parents, it’s our job to teach our children the skills they require to get through life, like problem solving.
In the adult world, the same intense passion as my 4 and 8 year old display in fighting over where a bike belongs ends in conflict and war – we need to teach our children to resolve problems rationally using cooperation and empathy so here are some tips for teaching that skill.
- Don’t focus on who started it or who’s fault it is. These things are irrelevant and assigning any kind of blame is pointless to resolving the root issue.
- Find the root issue. The root issue is not that one hit another or that one is screaming or that one took a toy that belonged to the other. The root issue would be why one hit or why one is screaming or why a toy was taken. This is also a good time for a “feelings check”. Is someone feeling left out, jealous, inferior?
- Use negotiation to find a win-win solution. Help your children work it out using negotiation techniques. State the problem clearly and ask them to offer suggestions of how the problem might be resolved that they will both (or all) be happy with the outcome. Perhaps they can play with the toy together, maybe there is another similar toy that they can both play with one and trade at intervals, maybe there is another game they can play. The goal is to get them to cooperate to find a solution.
These things will take practice but the eventual outcome is that they will learn to do their own negotiating and problem solving. Once they realize that they aren’t going to get you on one side or the other, they will start to try doing this themselves