Written by: Joanne Lowe
“That’s mine, no it’s mine, give it back, no,” screeeeamm!!!! This is a common conversation in our house at the moment between our four year old and her two year old sister. When they are together I spend the majority of my day keeping an eye on their play, and splitting them up when things get a bit quarrelsome. It’s tiring and it’s exhausting, not only mentally but physically. I can now make it from the kitchen to the living room in record time to head off a kiddie row. It’s hard to know how to deal with children fighting and it can be really upsetting to see as a parent. It’s a problem I’m working my way through at the moment as our toddler becomes more independent so I’m no expert, but after a little bit of research I’ve found some tips that can help stop siblings fighting.
Try not to compare your children. It’s hard if one child is behaving well and the other is going off the rails not to use that as an easy example of what is acceptable. I am guilty of having used good behaviour to demonstrate a point, but it can build resentment. Try instead to focus on what the child is doing and explain why you want their behaviour to stop.
It’s often difficult to know what has happened in a row between kids. Sometimes you’ll walk in half way through or at the crisis point of the argument. Speak to everyone to try and establish what has gone on then deal with it fairly and appropriately. It’s easy to let a smaller child get away with more because they are just that – small. All this teaches is that having a tantrum or screaming gets what you want. Be fair and try not to take sides with one child or the other.
Monitor The Mood
Keep an eye on what your children are doing and listen out for tensions. If you sense an argument is brewing, or if one child is tired, bored or grumpy, then intervene before trouble starts. Check they are interacting nicely, reinforce that you want them to be kind and share, and suggest an alternative if the situation doesn’t calm down. Introduce a different game or set them on separate tasks.
Give Them Space
I think sharing is one of the most important things we can teach our children, but I also think it’s vital to recognise when they want space. As adults we all know the value of ‘me time’. Sometimes children just want to play on their own. They want to colour without someone else scribbling over their picture or play with a doll without it being taken off them.
Lead By Example
It’s naive to pretend we all float around in an ethereal state of harmony especially given the busy pace of life, but staying calm is a good way to teach children that anger never really achieves anything. Try to stay level headed and acknowledge the child’s feelings. If they are angry they are probably upset or hurt about something. Just shouting or yelling at them to stop is not recognising their feelings and doesn’t show them an alternative to being angry. Also watch how you treat your partner. If your first reaction is to shout or pass a nasty comment when you are cross you are teaching your child to do the same.
Don’t let one child hit or push another. Any form of violence, scratching, slapping should be stopped straight away. Split the children up and discipline the hitter, explain they are not to hit. Placing them on the naughty step or in the naughty corner shows that their behaviour is not acceptable and also serves as a cooling off period. You can also take away treats or limit their play as a form of discipline. Also don’t get physical yourself. I believe that children shouldn’t be punished with violence. Some studies suggest that smacking can lead to an angry resentful children and that it can also lead to anxiety later in life. There are other ways to get your point across and it’s hypocritical to tell a child not to hit if you are then going to give them a quick tap on the back of the legs.
Pay Them Attention
Giving your children lots of individual attention can help reduce fighting between brothers and sisters. Again this is not easy when you have children of different ages all demanding your time, but research suggests it helps them to feel loved and accepted making children less likely to fight with their siblings.
Accept that it happens and it is part of being a human being. We all have conflicts, anger, and frustrations in our lives. Children are no different they just don’t know how to handle their emotions for the best yet.