SIBLING SQUABBLING….If I could give you one easy solution to end sibling squabbles, I’d be a millionaire tomorrow. But unfortunately, fighting among siblings is an age-old problem. It goes back as far as recorded history. (remember Cain and Abel?…That one didn’t end so well.)
There is not one easy solution, but I can offer some tools and tricks that have helped when the bickering begins in our home.
And though my boys are not perfect, and believe-you-me we have our moments, I can honestly say that overall, they get along really well.
In fact, (don’t tell him I told you this, but,) my fifteen year old and I were driving in the car a few days ago, and out of the blue he told me that his brothers (13, and 10) are so much his very best friends that he cannot imagine living away from them ever.
(I wiped my tears and acted like that was a totally normal thing for a fifteen year old to say.)
So, what are the tricks and tips? Well, I’ll break it down to two broad age categories, and then you can adjust accordingly to your kids’ ages and maturity levels.
Before I do that though, I want to say two things:
First, I think that some amount of fighting among siblings is healthy and normal. Kids need to figure things out. They need to learn conflict resolution skills, and sometimes the best thing we can do is leave them alone. You have to decide for your own family where to draw the line. Personally, I think that a bit of disagreement is fine, as long as kids wrap it up, or come to a conclusion quickly. When it turns to yelling, name calling, or getting physical, it has gone too far. Usually, it’s pretty clear when it is headed that way, so Mom and Dad should intervene before it gets ugly.
Second, I encourage you to try looking at your kids’ fighting with a different perspective: Begin to see sibling squabbling as a really good opportunity to train. I mean, most of the time, your kids are fighting in the privacy and security of your own home, right? This is the ideal setting for training, discipline, and teaching some powerful life lessons. If you are anticipating the problem, and equipped to handle it when it happens, then you have a great opportunity. Don’t be caught off guard like this is some strange new behavior–Kids will fight! And when they do, they are setting themselves up for your swift (unemotional, but firm) response.
I know this sounds easier than it is. We have other things to do at home, and kids don’t always choose the best timing to enter into combat. But if you can be on your game, I believe you can nip a lot of this in the bud, and even have some fun doing it!
Here’s my best suggestions for…
TODDLER through ELEMENTARY AGE:
It is important to teach your young kids all kinds of character qualities, all day long. Hopefully you are talking about being kind, helping others, and sharing. They might go to preschool or Sunday School and get even more of that.
But even if your toddler is not mature enough to understand the principles of kindness and generosity, he or she will absolutely understand CAUSE AND EFFECT. If you can give a swift consequence for undesirable behavior, and do it consistently, your child will learn. So, if two (or more,) kids are fighting over a toy, and Mom walks in the room and very firmly but very calmly removes the toy, every kid will learn a lesson. You can say, “You fight over the toy, you lose the toy.” The end. Walk away. Smile. Hum a tune.
If one of the children is clearly in the wrong or being a bully, then certainly follow up by giving that child whatever consequence you use for disobedience.
If removing the toy causes any (or all) of the kids to throw fits or act out–you should also follow-up by dolling out consequences swiftly, and unemotionally.
Side note: I do not suggest you get in the middle and start refereeing, trying to hear all sides of the story, because my friends, that can take you down a very long and dark rabbit hole. I’ve been there a time or two and it just never ends well.
Fighting over a toy? Remove the toy.
Video game battle? Unplug it.
Fighting over a cookie? Take it and throw it away (or let Mom eat it. and make sure they see how good it tastes.)
Cause/Effect…Behavior/Consequence…Call it life training. (and that is pretty much our job. :))
The bottom line: Make sure that the consequence for the fighting is always more UNPLEASANT than any pleasure brought on by the fight.
Kids must never be rewarded for fighting.
And then, when everyone has simmered down again, you have a great teaching moment to reinforce a lesson on being kind, taking turns, etc.
MIDDLE SCHOOL through HIGH SCHOOL YEARS:
By the tween and teen years, kids are mature enough to understand much more about their behavior and consequences. You as parents need to determine what the specific house rules are, and make them clear. Since they are getting older now, I suggest giving kids even more of a chance to work things out on their own. I think it is important to find some time (when they are NOT in the middle of a fight) to talk to kids about getting along, and point out some of the benefits of learning to get along now…Talk about future relationships, and how their ability to get along with a brother or sister now will prepare them for having a roommate in college, or a coworker at a job. (Or a husband or wife!) Somehow it is easier to get their attention when you shift their focus from the annoying sibling at home, to the goal of having good relationships in the future. Talk to your kids about character qualities like tolerance, cooperation, and choosing to overlook someone’s faults. Remind them that they are also not perfect. 😉
Then, when the fighting begins (because, lets be honest–it will!) your older kids need to know how to stop it in its tracks. I have taught my boys that it is the more mature one who is able to quietly walk away from a fight. That can be one of the hardest things they do all day, but it’s a useful life skill if they master it when they are young! (And when they do it, I try my best to notice and quietly nod in approval.)
For the times that they don’t just walk away, have set consequences in place. Let them know what exactly will happen if they cannot stop the fight before the parent has to.
So…IF they choose to fight, they should know that they must want to fight so badly that it is worth losing their phone for the week…or doing yard work instead of whatever plans they had on the weekend.
At any age: The consequence must be worse than whatever it is they get out of fighting.
And keep in mind: A swift consequence outweighs a hundred useless lectures, any day.
Now for my short list of useful tools to help stop fighting in its tracks, (or at least bring some laughter into the middle of it all,)
1. When you catch your kids mid-argument, stop and make them hug (and kiss if you dare.)
This one lightens the mood EVERY TIME.
2. A creative consequence for fighting: Assign them each the job of cleaning the other person’s bedroom. (ouch.)
3. Another consequence: Assign them a dirty, miserable chore that they have to do together. One that requires teamwork. And make sure you are near enough so that they cannot fight while they do the chore.
4. If you’re in the car and kids cannot keep their hands to themselves, simply make them sit on their hands for the rest of the car ride. A good friend taught me this, and it works like magic! (An added benefit: Somehow sitting on hands usually quiets their mouth as well.) This one works every time.
5. When younger kids are fighting, you can explain that it wears mommy out so much that everyone will have to go to bed twenty minutes earlier than usual on days that they fight. (then the next time they begin to fight you can begin with “oh no, if this goes on everyone will have an early bedtime tonight…”)
If kids know that you’ve got these consequences just waiting for them, they will likely take you much more seriously.
I hope something here was helpful, and now it’s your turn:
Let me now what you’ve done to curb the fighting, or what your biggest challenge is in this area!
And I would be so happy if you pinned or shared this with your friends and family using the social media buttons below!
Parenting…is NOT for the faint of heart! Be strong Moms and Dads!