10 ways to handle sibling rivalry
These are proactive parenting tips that would not only help kids learn social skills and train them how to manage themselves when faced with a conflict --- these could also save you from those endless pain-in-the-neck fights and bickering among siblings.
All kids fight. Fighting is one way a child handles conflicts; and the way we guide them or react to them during these moments is as important as any of the parenting roles we do.
Below are my top 10 ways of keeping kids from fighting. These are proactive parenting tips that would not only help kids learn social skills and train them how to manage themselves when faced with a conflict --- these could also save you from those endless pain-in-the-neck fights and bickering among siblings.
1. “No fighting” rule
One of the best, if not the best, parenting tool there is would be having entrenched a fixed set of universally consistent set of GROUND RULES. You know ... rules like “Do not do unto others....” You can devise your own that could resemble the one below:
a. Love one another at all times
b. Keep your room neat and tidy
c. Clean up and return things to where they’re kept after using
d. NO FIGHTING, no biting, no spitting, no cursing
e. Respect the property of others, etc.
You can formulate these rules with your children. Have them chip in, let them own these rules. When they feel empowered, when they feel they own the rules, it would be easier for them to stick to these. You can discuss and explain these with them, have them printed and posted on the fridge where everyone can see them. It doesn’t matter if some kids can’t read yet --- they would pretend they can because they must already know these by heart.
2. Be consistent
Don’t let your mood decide the observance of these rules. No matter how tired or preoccupied you are, if one of these rules is broken, you must always take a moment to deal with the kids involved. Your being inconsistent about the imposition of these rules will give the kids the signal that rules can be broken-sometimes.
3. Give them attention (not while they’re fighting)
The best way to illustrate this is by citing the “Are we there yet?” syndrome. When the entire family is in the car during a long-distance travel, the kids would start pestering the parents with this question. They would start to grumble, bicker and fight. This does not happen if you engage them to a conversation, or a game.
Kids who feel loved, given ample attention, and taken cared of are less likely to fight. Whether at home or in the car, always engage them. For all you know, they are fighting so they can get your attention (which you may not be giving them otherwise). If you have more than one kid, be a part of their “gang” and share your time with them as a friend, not as an adult authority. It would also pay if you give each child lots of individual attention. Always tell them you love them. Hug them any slightest chance you get.
4. Teach them how to communicate properly
Remember that most conflicts arise from poor communication, or the lack of it. Being able to communicate properly is a trait of a good leader – even among kids. He expresses himself, he can convince, and he can influence his way out of a conflict. Not being able to express himself leads to frustration and a fight.
5. Teach them to empathise
This is all about teaching your child the notion of “feelings.” When your child say, “I HATE Angel!”, you explain to her that hate is different from “being mad at.” You can say, “You don’t hate Angel, you LOVE her. You are just angry with her for grabbing your toy.” You empathise with her feelings. She appreciates that you understand how she feels, which then becomes the foundation of her developing empathy becomes for others.
You can explain to her how the other child is feeling, “Oh how bad she must feel! She’s crying. It would be nice if someone could make her feel better.” If your child could empathise, she would think twice before hurting someone else.
6. Teach them the concept of “win/win”
While it can be very difficult to make kids understand that the world does not revolve around them, it would pay to teach them how to negotiate and compromise. One of the basic lessons in life that you can teach them: You can’t get what you want all the time. Sometimes you have to work hard for it, or give something to get it.
If kids are fighting for the spot in the front seat of the family car, you can teach them to take turns, or have someone offer something for the spot.
7. Teach them the value of patience and tolerance
If all else fails, they can always use some small amount of patience and tolerance. If you have included “Love one another at all times” in your GROUND RULES, patience and tolerance usually comes along naturally. You can teach them to divide (share a piece of cake) or to give in. Also in the art of negotiating, a lesson in tolerance and patience could also go a long way.
8. Don’t get involved
As much as possible, never step in to a sibling squabble to stop it – let them settle their fight themselves. If you always intervene, they can always fight because you are always there to put out the fire. They will not learn how to work out their problems on their own. This may sound difficult but as long as they are not in any danger of physical injuries, let them learn that if they get into trouble, they would have to learn to get out of it by themselves. You can simply remind them of the ground rule against fighting and tell them to fix their differences themselves. You can decide later to impose the “penalty” for breaking the GROUND RULES, but not before they settle the fight themselves.
The usual knee-jerk reaction of a parent would be to step in and ask who started it – don’t. It doesn’t matter who started it. Each took part in the fight so each child is responsible. A bigger child bullying a baby is an entirely different matter, though. It is bullying, not fighting.
9. Be the example
“No fighting” rule but the kids always see you fight with your spouse? C’mon, guys..... You are also breaking a lot of other GROUND RULES!
10. Have lots of fun and happy moments as a family
Everything else will follow. No fights, more love.
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