“The other day, my oldest child was building this wonderful tower with wooden blocks. It had symmetry and interesting little nooks and crannies. Then my youngest child walked by and knocked it over with a single blow. A boo-boo lip and tears followed…” Sound familiar?
If you have more than one child, you have dealt with sibling rivalry. Some of us may have more experience with it than others, but all of us have (or will have) the unpleasant experience of listening to children argue, whine, cry… you know where I’m going with this!
The most common question we hear among parents is, ”Why do my children fight?”
It could be as simple as this:
- Is hungry, tired or bored
- Is trying to define his- or herself as an individual within the family
- Wants an equal amount of attention from you (and fighting sure does get your attention!)
- Is trying to show power
- Doesn’t understand that “peace” is a family value
- Is feeling stress, OR, what is more likely, is reacting to YOUR level of stress.
While it may be important to have a handle on why your children are arguing, what you DO about the fighting is MORE important.
“My middle child is always looking for attention. The other day she walked right over to my oldest child while he was playing a video game and unplugged it! Of course he started to yell at her, she started crying, and then…”
When the children are fighting—as long as no one is getting hurt—do your best to stay out of the fight. Let them work it out. It might seem hard to “do nothing,” but intervening will only cause the fight to escalate, and you may end up entering the conflict as a yelling, lecturing participant.
Change comes about by implementing proactive strategies that focus on what we WANT, not on what we don’t want.
- Using your Road Map to identify where you are and where you want to go, i.e. from yelling, screaming, and fighting to peace and quiet.
- Creating a plan on how you as a family will get there, which might include:
- Paying attention to the time of day the arguing occurs and taking care of your children’s basic needs first.
- Giving each child unique time and attention (not just equal time).
- Teaching and modeling positive ways to interact; for toddlers, this means trading toys instead of grabbing, and for older kids, this means expressing how they feel without judging the other person.
- Making sure each of your children have their own time and space.
- Really LISTENING to your children when they talk to you and to each other.
- Discussing family values and creating your mission statement as a way to refocus energy from fighting to cooperation.
- Noticing progress and improvement, and acknowledging this at your next family meeting.
Using these techniques can help you create an atmosphere of compromise, respect, and cooperation in your family.
“When my children were in high school they fought horribly, and they couldn’t have been more different. My oldest was top of her class in sports, grades, and honors, while my middle and youngest couldn’t get into enough trouble! Today, my oldest is a lawyer, my middle is a teacher, and my youngest owns his own business. They are all successes, and more importantly, they are close. What more could a parent ask for?
Conflict is a normal part of life, and any solution you try will take time. Be patient! Not only can these steps help you get through the day, they are an investment in your family’s future.