Nothing makes a parent feel more helpless and dispirited than the sounds of siblings shrieking, shouting, bickering, competing... at times it can feel never-ending. No matter how hard you try to reason, play fair, or even join the argument, chances are they will be at it again only minutes later.
One minute your children are best buds, and the next it is full out war. You are not alone. One of the most talked about parenting issues is that of siblings fighting. The good news is that there are ways to deal with this problem effectively. Below we've listed some things for you to try.
Embrace emotions in your household
Your children need help learning social skills for handling conflict. A broad emotions vocabulary can go a long way. Your children need first to understand what they are feeling to be able to communicate it to the other. You can't expect your children to have these skills if you don't teach and encourage these emotions in your household. So, the next time your child says she is angry at her brother; instead help her discover exactly what lies beneath that anger and how she plans to communicate it in a healthy way instead of lashing out.
Make plans on how to handle conflict together
Often children are stuck in conflicts they don't know how to resolve. This can lead to frustration that in return causes a child to lash out at the sibling because they don't know what else to do. It's important to talk to your children about how to handle conflict in a healthy manner - but be warned - don't try and teach them conflict resolution skills when they are already at each other's throats. Instead, pick a time when all is calm and everyone is emotionally in balance. Ask them to help you think of bright ideas on how to deal with conflict it in the house, and how they feel it should be dealt with when one person does not adhere to the rules. Children are very quick and witty when keeping each other in check.
Step aside when it's not your problem
Children are going to fight; siblings are going to fight for the rest of their lives. It is best for you to start separating yourself and allowing them ownership of their problems. By taking the problem and solving it for them, will only lead to dependency. Meaning, your children will never learn to take responsibility for solving their problems and will instead turn to you for the solutions and in some cases even blame you.
Teach your children that they are always welcome to approach you with a problem, but only if they weren't able to solve it themselves. Remember, that even in a situation like this, you need to guide them to solve the problem on their own.
Prevent and address
It's easy to say that you should step aside and allow your children to battle it out but what if your children's choice of the battleground is the supermarket or a close friend's house? That becomes a problem for you. And you have the right to address it because it has a real effect on you, for example, you feel embarrassed, you can't enjoy yourself, and you can't run your errands resulting in precious time lost.
You should clearly communicate your problem to your children but only when everyone is calm. An effective way is by means of prevention. Communicate clearly to them before visiting a friend or the shops about your wants and expectations and ask them how they think they can help you. Your children's intentions aren't to cause you distress, and their behaviour is rarely on purpose. By knowing what's expected of them and important to you, they are more likely to comply and keep each other in check as well.
The solution to sibling rivalry is not as simple as it sounds in the tips listed above. More than anything, you and your partner need to be setting the example of how conflict is dealt with in a healthy manner. Your children need to be taught how to regulate emotions; something they can only do if they know how to identify emotions.
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