Do you want to stop siblings from fighting? Arguments between siblings is distressing and maddening for parents. We’ve all been there, tried to break up a fight, we yell at our kids, push them apart, they cry, we cry, then the guilt gets to us. Am I a ‘good enough’ mum?
When siblings are closer in age, there is a greater likelihood of arguments. There are situations which siblings will perceive unfairness and so the fights start. We want our children to be the best of friends so when they scream and push each other, it presses our parental buttons.
Children learn how to get along with others from adults. They learn how to negotiate and respect others’ viewpoints even though the adult may disagree with another person. As parents, it’s our responsibility to teach our kids that having a different point of view is valid. Respecting a point of view is crucial for learning to negotiate relationships as they move through childhood into adulthood, learning how to manage their emotions in the midst of disagreements.
Kids may disagree over a toy, taking turns on the trampoline, or create a disagreement to gain a parent’s attention. The under three year olds have difficulty taking turns and struggle to verbalise their feelings. Children over three are learning to cooperate and follow the rules. As children develop, their social skills increase and conflict can lessen.
Allowing kids to try and sort out their differences without parental involvement teaches them negotiation skills. Listen out, though, for any escalation such as hurtful remarks or physical aggression. You will need to step in and break up the fight. This will require you to act calm, even though you may not feel this way. Being calm in the midst of others fighting, helps de-escalate the tension. Separate the children and when things have calmed down, then a discussion can take place. Talk about the issue, not about one child blaming the other, otherwise the argument will start all over again.
Sibling fights are more likely with the school holidays around the corner, so here are ideas to use before the conflict begins:
Family meetings are at the crux of sorting out fighting and other issues within your home. Get the kids and adults together and discuss the positive aspects of living together – belonging as a family, love for each other, warm feelings towards each other, help each other. Families help other members stay grounded. I’m sure you can come up with a longer list than this.
Have a family meeting before the new rules are implemented so everyone is aware of expectations. Discuss the rules for your home, such as “No yelling”, “No name calling”, “Clean up your mess”. Just two or three rules is enough. Write the rules down and put in a common area. For many children, though, they will understand the new rules once they see it in action.
For kids that have difficulty reading, draw or cut out pictures, and stick them next to the written rules. In my practice, I use a variety of picture cards, mostly from Innovative Resources. Some cards have only pictures, others have pictures and words. These cards are helpful for both children and adults to express themselves.
Rules for Behaviour
Rules need to be implemented around disagreements. Society has rules for appropriate behaviour, rules are also necessary in the home to help guide family members on acceptable conduct. Examples may be No Hitting, No Name Calling, No Hurting.
A typical disagreement could be of two siblings playing in the one room. A brother who throws a Lego block at his sister because she wouldn’t let him play. To avoid this escalating further, explain that you understand his frustration and refer back to rules of not hurting each other. Also explain to your daughter the importance of sharing.
Who is to Blame?
With sibling fighting, one child can start it but if the other child stays in ‘the ring’, both children are responsible for continuing the behaviour – name calling, teasing, back and forth it goes. Both children are then held accountable.
Consequences when Rules are Broken
Children should be informed of consequences if rules are broken. An example could be that bedtime is 30 minutes earlier that night. If one or both argue of the unfairness of earlier bedtime, then your kids have a choice – either earlier to bed or less time on their phone or laptop or something else that is important to them. The choice then becomes your children’s.
Consider what consequences you will implement prior to the fighting, so you are prepared. It may seem tiring to think of consequences when rules are broken, but it will be more tiring for you when those rules are broken and you are trying to break up the fight.
Write a short list of consequences that can be used in most situations. Ensure that the consequences, though, are not burdensome, such as “No TV for one week.” This will be hard to keep for everyone.
Help Children to Express Themselves
When kids are young, they have difficulty expressing themselves verbally, hence they bite, scratch and hit out in other ways. Teach kids to use their feeling words. Show them pictures of faces with a smile, a frown, sadness, etc. Your child can point to those pictures and give a name to the feeling.
Avoid being the Referee in your Children’s Fights
Tell your kids of the No Fight rule and tell them directly that they must learn to walk away from each other. If they cannot walk away, then a consequence will be implemented.
Sharing a Bedroom with a Sibling
If children share a bedroom, have a special drawer or box that each child can put their individual toys and things in, which they don’t have to share. Perhaps a room divider or bookcase to split the bedroom up, allowing personal space from their sibling.
Use white noise such as a fan, or relaxing music, to help create calm.
Have individual time with each child, this attention will pay dividends in the long term. Give your child a cuddle, read a story, go to the park, it doesn’t need to be an expensive option. Just 20 minutes a day playing with your child. Incorporate this play into the day so it becomes part of the family routine. This will strengthen your relationship with your child and reduce difficult behaviour.
I explain to parents that families are a team, much like a soccer or netball team. Work together to achieve the goal – happy parents, happy children.
Have dinner together as a family at least twice a week, your children will learn the social aspects of conversation and community through shared meals.
Consistency with rules is an ideal. Family life is often busy so it can be tough to always be consistent. I advise mums to be as consistent as possible, so that kids know where the boundaries are at home as well as outside the home.
If you would like to know more about how I can help you, give me a call on 0404 871 195, or email on firstname.lastname@example.org
Janice Williams is a professional Counsellor and specialises in mother-daughter relationship counselling.
Janice offers in-person counselling, as well as online and phone counselling across Australia. Online counselling is available worldwide.