Monday, September 28, 2015

When Siblings Fight

In most homes, the children share all their toys, laugh out loud as they play together, and give each other spontaneous hugs throughout the day.  Aah, no. 

As a parent of two boys who were 17 months apart in age, I dreamed of them treating each other as special lifelong friends -  buddies that would be there for each other through thick and thin...  

I received a pretty dramatic dose of reality as soon as the youngest was mobile. They were territorial, competitive and sometimes down right combative!  I was continually amazed as I observed them develop their crafty skills of manipulation to achieve their own individual goals.  

I realized I needed to develop some conflict resolution skills and set some limits, but I could see this was going to consume serious parenting time and effort over the next eighteen years, or so.

Sibling relationships are the school-room for developing positive communication, compromise and friendship skills.  Parents can and should set limits that will keep your home a safe and happy place in which the children can grow up. Here are some ideas you might want to consider to set these limits:
  • Set the expectation that hurtful words and actions will not be tolerated. Siblings will not be allowed to physically or verbally mistreat each other. Setting and holding your children to this expectation will make your home a happier place and will prepare your children well for transition into the school setting.  
  • Require your children to use a calm and quiet tone of voice when they become angry and upset - don't allow yelling and screaming.  This is an enormously important element of self control that your children will benefit from in every aspect of their lives. Honestly, I had to work on my own self control to be able to help my children learn self control. I knew I needed to practice what I was preaching to be effective. 
  • Communicate that you expect the children to solve their arguments on their own as much as possible.  They need to be able to learn from their mistakes and experience the whole gamut of emotions that comes along with getting along.  
  • Set up ground rules for times when they are completely unable to resolve a problem on their own.  You can listen as they explain the situation, and make the decisions fairly and impartially.  At this point, the children have given the problem over to you. They must, therefore, accept your decision without resistance.  Sometimes you may want to explain your thinking and how you have come to your decision, but the children should understand that if they bring a problem to you, they will no longer have any say in how the problem is resolved.  
Don't expect every problem to be solved with happiness and hugs.  Life brings challenges, conflicts and difficulties to all of us. Learning how to respond in healthy ways to disappointments and disagreements is essential to building positive relationships at home, school and work. Don't give into the temptation of making everything perfect for your children. Doing this will rob them of important opportunities to develop coping skills they will need as adults.  When your child is upset by the outcome of an argument, communicate your empathy and suggest a coping skill they might use, like moving on to some other activity in the day.  
Well, my boys are all grown up now and enjoy something close to my dream of them being special lifelong friends!  Here is a link to some other ideas on sibling relationships.  I hope you find this post and the link helpful.

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