Watching or listening to your children fight with each other is one of the worst things for a parent to have to cope with. Usually it’s just sibling rivalry and harmless, but that doesn’t make it any easier to accept.
In my household the fights and niggles start when they wake at 5.30am and continue until all three of them are safely contained in their own beds that night.
Keeping my sanity during such fights is not always easy or an option, with siblings usually sent to different parts of the house for some peace and quiet.
It’s a common challenge and while it’s impossible for parents to stop sibling rivalry completely, you can reduce its frequency. And if this means less yelling and hollering from you AND the kids then sign me up!
According to Positive Parenting Solutions founder and parenting educator Amy McCready, there are guidelines you can follow to prevent some sibling rivalry episodes and end them quick smart.
6 ways to manage sibling rivalry and keep your sanity:
1. Ditch labelling your kids
When we talk about our ‘smart’ ‘sporty’ or ‘caring’ child, we create competition among our kids. By ditching labels we give all our kids the chance to shine in all aspects of life.
Cheer on positive attributes, such as teamwork, persistence and kindness. Siblings can then root for each other instead of competing for their parents’ approval.
2. Give them all individual attention
One of the top reasons kids fight is to gain their parents’ attention, with negative attention often seen as better than no attention. Make an effort to give every child at least 10-20 minutes of positive, individual attention every day, from each parent.
Your kids will learn they don’t have to fight to get you to look their way and will crave and enjoy your special time together.
3. Teach them to make love not war
Maybe your children need a refresher course on peaceful conflict resolution. Teach them how to take turns, use ‘I feel’ statements, walk away and remind them how they can control their temper, e.g. by counting to 10. This way you’ll be able to ward off a lot of sibling arguments before they begin.
4. Try to stay out of it
Do your best to ignore a disagreement between your kids; busy yourself elsewhere. It’s best to give them a chance to work it out on their own. In doing so you’ll also remove the payoff they get from your attention.
5. Calm the conflict
However, if the fight escalates and your kids can’t reach an agreement you will need to step in. Listen to each child and encourage them to say how they feel and then without placing blame or sides, ask them to come up with some solutions.
If no one is able to come up with a workable resolution, suggest a few yourself, and help them reach an agreement.
6. Put them all in the same boat
Often kids still won’t agree, in this instance it’s time to put them all in the same boat. Hand down a consequence such as ‘either you can take turns with the game or I will put it away for the rest of the day’. You MUST follow through on your promise.
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