Is Sibling Rivalry driving you crazy? You just want them to get along, right?
Fighting Kids is something that parents have been dealing with forever, I’m sure. We all want our children to be kind to each other. In fact, they even invented a National Siblings Day to celebrate siblings and their friendship.
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Yes… it’s an age-old problem that parents have been facing. I know it’s been happening for at least for the past 50 years:
Picture it: Cannonsburgh, Pennsylvania, 1960: (My Mom as a child)
My mom and her three siblings were fighting and arguing so much that my grandma used to say to them (often) “If we can’t have peace in our family, how can we expect to have peace in the world?”
Picture it: Pittsburgh, PA, 1958:
(My Dad as a child)
My grandma said that she had to turn off “The Three Stooges” because my dad and his brother were constantly hitting each other with moves they saw on the show. It would easily turn into fighting.
ALSO… when they would ride in the car, he and his brother would fight about who would get to ride behind my “PapPap” in the car.
Picture it: Centerville, PA 1968:
(Mickey’s dad as a child)
Mickey’s dad got a nickel as a reward, walked right outside and showed his sister and said: “I get to buy a popsicle and you don’t”. His mom walked out behind him and took the nickel off of him.
Picture it, Washington, PA 1990:
I can remember a time when I was younger and my brother and I were on our way to my Grandparent’s house in Pittsburgh. It was a 45-minute car ride and we were sharing a seat in the back of the car. I looked out his window, probably trying to annoy him, and he tattled on me. “She’s looking out my window.” It’s been going on for as long as I can remember. So… today we’re talking about how to stop siblings from fighting.
We Want It To Stop.
Parents have been asking kids to stop fighting since the beginning of time. It’s natural to want our kids to be best friends. We want them to have a life of happiness together, counting on each other and relying on each other. Personally, I want to know that when times get tough (now, in a few years, or when they are adults), they will call each other and know that they will have support.
Little Kids Fighting Happens A Lot
In children ages 7 and under, the number of arguments is 3-7 every hour. No wonder parents everywhere want a solution.
Why Do Siblings Fight?
The Good News:
Sibling Rivalry and arguing as children leads to learning to understand others, helps in negotiating, problem solving and even helps their negotiating skills (like when you tell your brother that you want the front seat… but only out of the kindness of your heart, because the back seat is so much better, roomier and cooler).
The National Center of Biotechnology Information suggests: “Most research on direct sibling influences is grounded in developmental or social learning models, suggesting that, by virtue of their everyday involvement, siblings can promote positive development as well as adjustment problems.”
“Siblings offer early, on-the-job training in how to work and live with other people. They also provide a crash course in how to manage intense emotions: envy, hatred, anger. In children of all ages, but especially younger children, the urge to compete for parental attention is innate. Among teenagers, sibling conflict helps them work out their need to differentiate from family and to set their own boundaries.” – New York Times
How To Stop Sibling Rivalry
I am sure that we have the same goal: we want our kids to be allies who have each other’s backs. We want them to be friends that enjoy hanging out together.
“To the outside world, we all grow old. But not to brothers and sisters. We know each other as we always were. We know each other’s hearts. We share private family jokes. We remember family feuds and secrets, family griefs and joys. We live outside a touch of time.” – Clara Ortega
IDEA #1: Empathy
I read a book called Siblings without Rivalry and it was great. It talks about how most rivalry stems from needing attention.
When one child says “Mom, so & so took my pencil.” Instead of saying our natural reaction ‘Stop being a tattletale.” Or “Give it back.” the book explains that we need to just be empathic.
“Oh, he took your pencil? That probably hurt your feelings.” They just want to feel valued. That was all that it took for me to see a huge turn around in our kids.
It works. It really does. Just relate to them, listen to them, be empathetic. They will handle the rest themselves.
IDEA #2: Equality
Since most of the arguments happen when I’m not right there, I end up being the judge. The problem is that I can’t pick when it is he said/she said, so I have to go off of who I think is right. I do not like to do this… at all. If I don’t have all of the facts, they are treated equally. Usually, it ends in everyone facing the consequences (which is usually doing a boring & hard chore that they dislike)
IDEA #3: Take It Away
Take away anything that the children fight over. I tell our kids “If you are arguing over something, I will take it. I will never let something come in-between your relationship.” I do just that- I take it away and do not give it back until the following day. I do not give any warnings (I used to, but now they know the rules). If I hear fighting, it is gone/turned off/taken away and I ALWAYS remind them why: “We don’t let anything come between family.”
IDEA #4: Take Away Electronics
Take away electronics. It works like a charm! Seriously- just read this post on no electronics for the week to hear more. I can’t tell you enough about why I love this week, but I will say that the kids like it just as much. Yes, the beginning of the week is hard, but by the end, they are playing and happy and not one child is asking for their electronics.
Note: I do allow family tv shows and movies- as long as they are sharing the experience with someone else (like watching a Netflix series at night together), I am OK with it.
When we did give them back, we immediately started using our Chores for Screentime Cards.
IDEA #5: Put-Ups
If a sibling puts a sibling down, they have to offer a compliment or way to build that person up. A good ratio is 1:3. If you put someone down once, you must say three things that are encouraging and kind to build them back up.
Example: Child A says: “You are so annoying.” to Child B.
Child B is sad. Parent overhears it and reminds Child A to offer 3 kind things.
Child A: “You are nice. You are great at sharing. I like how you work hard at baseball.”
It can be hard for them to think of new compliments and not always go back to “You are nice,” but they will get the hang of it.
IDEA #6: Work It Out
Sometimes, the best thing that we can do is to teach our children to work it out. Give them the skills to resolve conflict and then let them do it. When our kids come to me with a tattle, I remind them that if they can’t work it out, I will be forced to take action, which means taking things away or giving everyone consequences. (Unless someone is being hurt – that’s a non-negotiation/must-tell-mom thing).
IDEA #7: Time Together
“Children are spending more and more time in age-segregated activities. Meanwhile, houses have gotten bigger. Although many kids still share a room (as mine do), increasing numbers of children sleep on their own. With less need to resolve conflict and less time available in which to do it, some disputes may fester longer than they need to.” – KJ Dell’Antonia
IDEA #8: Cotton Ball Reward System
Using our Reward System. If you have not read about our Cotton Ball Reward System, I would suggest trying it. It encourages the kids to do nice things for others. Yesterday our oldest son wanted to fill his jar quickly so that he and my husband could go bowling in the next week, so he said nice things to his brothers all day! He was the picture of the perfect big brother. Focusing on the positive works!
IDEA #9: Along Time
Just as you finished reading about time together, I want to remind you that your children also need some space. Offering alone time is a great way to let your children have time to reflect, to have quiet and to miss each other a bit. I can usually tell when they need time to themselves and this is when I give them a quiet activity.
My neighbor saves reading time for this time. She said that when she finds her kids arguing more or starting to bother each other, she will tell everyone that it’s time for their 30-minute daily reading alone. They find a place to get comfy and they read on their own. When our children were too young to read, I suggested drawing or coloring.
IDEA #10: Pray Outloud
Pray for your kids, with your kids, that they will know the love and friendship of a sibling. Talk about how lucky they are to have ‘built-in best friends.” I say this out loud so our children will hear me. “Thank you for giving my children each other. Thank you for letting them have the love and friendship of a sibling and friend all of the time.” (I include cousins in the prayer, too.)
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