You hear the bickering in the other room. Your kids are fighting, yet again, over whose turn it is to go first, or what T.V. program to watch, or they’re using the other sibling’s “stuff” without permission.
You often wonder, “Where did I go wrong? Is this normal? Do other kids fight as much as our kids?”
Well, the answer is yes and no. Yes, siblings do fight and it’s natural to have some sibling rivalry. Luckily, there are things that you can do as a parent to increase sibling cooperation and enjoyment in each other’s company.
As a parent, you can encourage cooperation and minimize comparisons and competition between your children. Keeping track of when kids fight and the nature of their sibling rivalry can help you achieve peace and harmony in your home.
Here are 7 tips on how to get kids to stop fighting so they can start getting along.
1. Treat them fairly, but not equally.
That may initially feel counterintuitive but your children are unique and have different needs.
Ensuring that you’re aware of their different needs and are responsive is more important than making sure that everything is 50-50.
Let your child know they are loved uniquely, according to their individual needs.
2. Take the time to listen to them without judgment.
Oftentimes, as parents, you rush in with anger or immediately dish out consequences without taking the time to listen.
Stay calm. Give your children a chance to share their perspectives about what happened.
This helps them feel heard and encourages cooperation and problem solving with their sibling.
3. Encourage your children to come up with solutions.
Have your children be part of the solution. Have them write down solutions to the conflict (or write them down for younger children) and then read back what everyone came up with.
Have them evaluate what could work and how they can try out some of their fixes. Let them have ownership of the process.
4. Be careful about comparing one child to their sibling.
It can happen very easily. You say under your breath, “I wish you were more like your brother and listened when I asked you to do something.”
Children are very sensitive to comparisons and it can increase the rivalry between siblings. Instead, describe the behavior or what needs to be done, such as, “We are running late because you have not put on your soccer cleats for practice.”
5. Encourage cooperative play or rewards.
You can create goals for your children that include working together and then earning a reward for their cooperative behavior.
An example could be if they can both clean up the playroom before dinner for a week, they can pick an activity that they can do together.
You can also have them be on the same team with board games and encourage positive feelings as well as a mutual goal that they are working towards.
6. Allow them to work out their problems.
Parents often rush in with a solution and come up with one that seems fair to them but, oftentimes, is not what their children need.
Allow them to negotiate and find a way to work things out.
If a solution seems unfair, reflect back to both of them what you are hearing and make sure they’re both on board. You may be surprised at their skills in negotiation.
7. Teach them to use “I” statements.
It’s important for children to share their feelings. A simple but effective tool that both children and adults can use is the “I” statement: “I feel _____ (fill in the emotion) when you _____ (short statement) because _____, I need you to _______.”
For example, “I feel upset when you don’t let me pick the game we are going to play because it’s not fair, I need for you to let me go first some of the time.”
Managing bickering among your children can feel like an uphill battle, but it’s a big part of how to get kids to stop fighting and can help you as a parent feel more empowered and less like a referee.
Monica Ramunda is a Registered Play Therapist who has over 20 years of experience working with families and children and has offices in both Colorado and North Carolina. Reach out today for parenting coaching and support in managing your sibling rivalry.