All siblings fight, conflict is a normal part of any relationship. Conflict allows children to learn and grow, test their boundaries and to learn cause and effect.
- Stop the fight before the crying starts. This might require physically separating your children, or sending them to opposite sides of the room to settle down.
- Keep your cool. This might sound impossible, but the idea is not to make things worse. Try to save your energy for giving positive feedback on behaviour that you want to encourage. Focusing on the positive and not focusing on the bad behaviour shows our children which kind of behaviour gets our attention.
- Tell children you will talk about it later. Children are often too upset to take in what you’re saying at first. Wait until things settle down before you talk about the issue. This could even be the next day with older children.
- Treat all children fairly
- But remember that fair treatment isn’t necessarily the same treatment. For example, it might not be possible to treat a nine-year-old and a two-year-old the same.
- This helps you work out the best thing to do. For example, if a child has taken a toy from a sibling, you need to step in. If you don’t, the child learns that fighting is a way to get what you want. Keeping an eye on your children is the secret to knowing the reason for the fighting – and deciding on the right way to deal it.
- Model the Behaviour You Want to See
- Don't just talk about how to resolve conflicts; show children. Fighting or shouting as a solution to a disagreement is reinforced when kids see parents do the same. Don't fight with your spouse (or relatives or friends) in front of the kids. And though it can be tough to be heard above the sound of fighting kids, try not to raise your voice when kids are fighting.
- Let children know what you plan to do. For example, ‘I’ve decided that neither of you should use the tablet until we can find a way to stop the fighting. Do you understand? Are you willing to work on solving the problem now?’
- Ask both children to say what they think the problem is
- Encourage them to try to see it from the other person’s point of view as well as their own. You could tell them that two people might still disagree even when they both have valid points of view.
Laura Doyle, mum of 4. Kyle 9, Noa Belle 4, Briar 2 and Milla 12 months. Breastfeeder, co-sleeper, coffee drinker. Staying positive and inspired in the chaos of it all. Writer and blogger at www.lovelifeandlittleones.com.