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I don’t have a lot of experience with siblings fighting (I am on a roll writing about things I have little experience with!). Brayden (4) and Kaitlyn(2) argue sometimes, but it is short-lived and has never been something big. Neither child seems to have the desire for arguing.
When they do, however, my first reaction is to jump up and get in the middle and sort it out. Before Kaitlyn was ever born, I recognized this in me as we would have play dates with other children. If they were having a hard time sharing, I wanted to jump in and work it out. I recognized that this was not the best approach. Children need to learn how to resolve conflicts, and if you never give them the chance, they will never learn.
In the book Making Children Mind Without Losing Yours, Dr. Kevin Leman states a few times that when your children are fighting, let them work it out among themselves (page 172). Of course there are always exceptions to rules, but I follow this rule in general, also.
When Brayden and Kaitlyn are having sibling playtime, they will sometimes be arguing about something. I always give them a few minutes to work it out before I go in there. They work it out between the two of them 99% of the time. It should be noted that arguments are always verbal and no one is in any physical “danger.” They have learned to compromise and work through problems with each other. They don’t constantly need a mediator. They don’t come running to me to tattle on each other.
The fact is that people disagree with each other. You all know this. You disagree with parents, siblings, friends, associates, and your spouse! Disagreeing is completely normal and is not a sign of problems. The sign of problems is in how you resolve these conflicts. Allowing your children to practice conflict resolution skills while young will help them when they are older.
Naturally, we don’t just throw our kids in a room together and say, “Have at it! Happy Learning!” We need to teach them. Teach them in times of non-conflict. Teach them about loving each other and how we show that love. Teach them about sharing and taking turns. Teach them what to say when they want something. Then time with siblings becomes the practice for what they have been taught. You should also pay attention as they play together and take note of what needs work. How is the sharing? How are they at taking turns? Is the oldest too bossy? Is the youngest crying at every turn?
Leman also points out that children often fight in order to get attention. This will especially be true if you are quick to intervene every time there is a disagreement. He also seems to be referring to older children (about 5 and up through the teenage years) more than the toddlers and preschoolers. He says that often times if you require that your children leave your presence for their fighting, they will stop fighting. It isn’t as fun without an audience (page 145).
As always, use your judgement in these fighting situations. Intervene when you need to, but give your children a chance to work things out among themselves. Train in times of non-conflict and be vigilant about observing the areas your children need to improve on.
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