Your kids are fighting. Again.
You can hear them in the living room arguing over the remote. Or the iPad. Or whatever.
“Work it out guys!” you yell from the other room.
The arguing continues. And in a matter of seconds, you hear screaming.
They are obviously not working it out. In fact, it they never work it out.
Will the fighting ever stop?
Expecting our kids to “work it out” is like handing a 7 year-old a 10th grade math book and expecting them to get an A on the final exam.
It’s not going to happen.
If we want our kids to work things out with their siblings, we we can’t just ignore the fighting and hope it goes away.
We need to teach them problem-solving skills!
To do this, we need to be available and willing to help our kids learn and practice new skills.
Instead of ignoring the problem, crossing your fingers and hoping that someday they figure it out, you empower them to make a better choice.
How to Help Siblings “Work it out”
Remember, this is a skill. It’s going to take time for your kids to learn and implement these strategies. Like any skill, sometimes is will be easy, sometimes it might take more effort.
Focus on the long-term goal: less sibling fighting!
- Calm Yourself First: Sibling fighting can sound the alarm in our brain almost immediately. Instead of responding in a panic, remind yourself that this is not an emergency and focus on getting calm. This might mean waiting a minute to respond.
- Get Involved: Yep. At least initially, you will need to be where the action is in to be most helpful. You don’t have to follow your kids around the house, but when you hear a scuffle, you’ll need to move to where the kids are fighting instead of yelling from another room.
- Stay Neutral: In the past, you may have entered the room doling out punishments and making judgment calls about who’s at fault. But this time, since you’re already calm, you will be able to offer support and empathy to everyone involved.
- Dissect the Problem: Make a general statement, “It sounds like you guys need help solving this problem.” Then, hear each child’s perspective and restate their requests, “So, you’d like to watch cat videos and you’d like to watch magic trick videos.”
- Brainstorm Together: Talk about how to solve the problem in a way that works for everyone. At first, you may need to give suggestions, but eventually your kids will offer their own solutions. It’s ok to delay this conversation until everyone is calm.
- Offer More Support: Sometimes, one child may be struggling more than the other. In this case, you may need to give that child more empathy, encouragement, or help finding another activity. Or, they may just need a little extra time with you!
Phew! Does it seem like a lot? It is…at first. But, don’t give up before you begin!
Eventually, it will be your new habit. Instead of telling your kids to “work it out,” you will be able to ask, “Do you need help working it out?”
And, sometimes, the answer will be “no, we got it!”
One More Thing…
Before you write me saying “this will never work,” let me say this: there is a lot more to the sibling puzzle than just helping your kids work out their differences.
Often, there are underlying reasons for sibling rivalry: kids are dealing with big feelings of jealousy, they are longing for their parent’s attention, or they are feeling uncertain of their parent’s love. Plus, the older your kids are, the more ingrained this pattern of fighting has become. It’s not impossible to repair, but it might be hard to imagine anything changing.
I will address these pieces in future posts. But for now, if sibling rivalry or sibling fighting is taking over your house, stop what you’re doing and focus on building a stronger connection with each one of your kids.