This continual fighting between siblings is one of the major frustrations parents have. They feel that nothing they are doing is working. Parents’ typical reactions to fighting include: screaming “Shut up! You’re driving me crazy”, taking sides, threats, accusations, dismissing negative feelings, and solving children’s problems for them. All of these reactions only add fuel to the fire.
Instead of reacting to the fighting, parents can choose to be pro-active. They can stay out of the fights in a nonjudgmental way. Children need to be able to settle things for themselves. Parents can teach negotiation skills later during a calm period. Teach your child to say “I’ll give you these blocks for those.” This will help them learn win-win skills that will be there when they are needed now, and will be useful in the future.
Another thing parents can do is show confidence that their children will work things out. “I see two children and one doll, and I know you two can work things out together so both of you are happy.” Believe it and walk out of the room. You’ll be surprised.
Sometimes the strategy of keeping children in separate rooms works. When the fight between two children starts getting physical, ask them to go to different rooms and be there for sometime. It will help them cool down and feel relaxed.
Parents need to remember to affirm and accept feelings. All feelings are alright, but not all actions are. A parent can say, “You felt very angry at your sister because she broke your truck. Use your mouth to tell her that, not your hands or feet.” Keep in mind that the anger needs to come out before it ebbs and makes way for the patch-up.
Family atmosphere is another aspect you need to pay attention to. If parents are happy with each other and handle their disagreements respectfully, the children tend to reflect this attitude in their relationship with each other. Ask yourself, what sort of family atmosphere are we promoting through our own behaviour?
And finally, when parents react to hostility, they are unwittingly promoting sibling rivalry. Your children will need the skills of negotiation and cooperation in their business and personal relationships. Parents can begin now to help their children learn these important skills. Think about what an incredible difference this could make in their lives!