You know the feeling! Sibling fighting and rivalry can be one of the most stressful parts of life for parents (and the neighborhood).
Read also the article Sibling rivalry – Why is my older child jealous of the baby?
But when you think back to your own childhood: did you fight with your siblings? I sure did, and I’m pretty sure we drove our poor parents nuts! But it was almost like it was something we had to do. To find our feet, get it out of our system, express some jealousy issues, or simply just because we were bored, and still had unconditional love from each other afterwards!
Sibling fighting only becomes a problem if we allow it to. We don’t have to give every little fight our full attention, we can choose to ignore some of it and remove ourselves to a more peaceful place!
5 tips to overcome sibling fighting:
- What kind of role model do you need to be, in order to handle the rivalry? Have a think about all the skills and qualities you will need, in order to mirror what you want to see more of in your children i.e. stay calm, think before reacting, listening, problem solving, ignoring small irritating behaviors etc. Then try to act this way so your kids can learn from you.
- Check in with yourself before you do or say anything: Try not to jump into a fight straight away with a ‘stop it’, ‘cut it out’ or yelling and saying things you might regret later on. Before doing or saying anything, stop, take a deep breath and slowly let it out. Have a think about those role model skills and which ones you need to use right now. Just breathe, feel how you feel, ‘I am so angry’, and then don’t let your negative feelings influence how you react or cope.
STOP, BREATHE, FEEL
and then make a decision of what to say and do or not!
- Awareness and decision: Stay curious, ask yourself “why?” “What is going on?” Have a think about the following questions:
- Where do they normally fight? is there a particular place they fight i.e. in the car, in front of you, at the dinner table
- When do they fight? Morning, afternoon, evening, bedtime, weekend, dinnertime etc.?
- What do they fight over? Everything, food, toys, a game, screen time etc?
- Who is the ‘leader’, the ‘dominant’ (if there is one)? Before we make the decision to ignore make sure that one is not being bullied or that the ‘fight’ isn’t unfair or uneven. Observe if there is one that seems to start it and the other always loses out. Is there personal mean stuff, labelling and so on going on. Is one always hurt etc. If this is the case then action is needed immediately!
Now that you have analyzed the situation a bit more, what will you do about it? Ignore it, walk away, help them to problem solve, make some changes to prevent things happening during the time that they tend to fight i.e. if you know it is bedtime then they might need different bedtime routines etc.
- Lots of one2one and two2two: Kids love parenting attention and often they get lots of that when they fight. So try to give them what they crave and offer lots of one2one attention to each child regularly, where you are 100% there. It is also a good idea to create some nice, positive time together with the 2 kids that tend to fight, show them that this is what you want to see more of. Catch them being good: when they do hang out or play nicely together ‘get in there’; and show them with your attention that you like it. You don’t have to say ‘wow you are playing so nicely together’ you can say it with your body and attention and smile.
- In Peaceful times have a chat: Have a family chat when you are all calm and ready to talk. Explore ways that can limit the fighting and ask what you can do to help. Let them problem solve with you as the listener, ‘so what do you think we can do about this?’. When I asked my 2 boys they said ‘Mum really it is not a big deal, it is not serious, just ignore us, leave us to it, we are good, it is you who have a problem!’ So that was what I did and it all seemed to calm down!
It is safe to say that sibling fighting is here to stay. Its normal but can be very stressful.
But lets all understand that the atmosphere in the home first and foremost come down to us.
What example do we set in overcoming disagreements? How patient are we with our children?