Being a parent is an amazing journey. When you finally meet your first-born child, you experience a love you never knew existed. Then your next child comes along and your family dynamic changes take some getting used to. As your kids grow up, their relationship has ups and downs. They are best friends one moment and enemies the next. It’s not easy when siblings are fighting. It can be frustrating and saddening. But, there are ways to calm the storms and help your kids create a strong and healthy bond.
As a parent, you might be at a loss when it comes to your kids’ relationship with one another. When there are constant fights and chaos becomes the norm, take a deep breath and consider some of these guidelines:
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Siblings fighting guidelines:
1 | Do not take sides.
When your kids are fighting with each other, it might feel like second nature to get involved and help them sort everything out. DON’T.
Unless someone is about to get hurt, the best thing you can do for your kids is to stay out of their argument and let them learn to problem solve. This is a skill that is going to be needed in all future relationships, so it might as well start as early as possible.
This strategy doesn’t mean that you turn your back and ignore an argument. It means that you take on a neutral role and guide your children in solving the problem at hand.
Taking a neutral role can include “sportscasting”. This is where you simply state what you are observing. You do not place blame, you simply state what you are seeing. This way, your kids feelings are validated, yet you are staying neutral.
This is also a great tool to help ME stay calm during the chaos.
2 | Teach your kids what is appropriate during an argument.
Things can definitely get fired up between siblings. I can remember fights between my sisters that felt like all-out war. As a parent, I see the arguments escalate between my son and daughter and always try to see what they can learn through their disagreement. I try to make each one a life lesson in respect and fighting fair.
My kids know that having disagreements is a completely normal part of life. Having a different opinion, or simply needing time away from each other are not a bad thing. My kids know that they can be upset with one another, but that disrespectful words and any type of physical harm (including screaming so loud everyone’s ears ring) will not be tolerated.
Setting these boundaries let our kids know that they won’t be shamed for feeling angry and upset with each other, but that it has to be handled appropriately and respectfully. This is a lesson that will carry them through their own marriages, parenthood and interacting with others, in general.
Teaching your kids to use phrases such as “I feel…” during an argument, will give them an amazing set of skills that will help them get their feelings heard and will help to deescalate the situation.
Kids also need to know that it is okay to walk away during a fight with their sibling. Spending time apart is not a bad thing. My kids know that they have the ability to walk away, but a discussion still has to take place upon their return.
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3 | Give attention to the victim first, not the aggressor.
I have read that negative behavior issues have to do with a disconnect in the parent-child relationship. I whole heartedly believe that this is true. I have seen negative attention seeking in other children, as well as my own.
I can tell when my kids are tired, hungry or just need more “mommy time”. Even when I think I am spending a good amount of quality time with my kids, there are still times that negative attention seeking happens.
In order to offset the reward of negative attention seeking, it’s important to check on the victim first.
There are plenty of times when I have no idea who “started” the argument between my kids. Both point at each other and since I don’t have video cameras in every room for an instant replay, I can’t figure out what happened.
In those instances where both kids feel victimized, I treat it as a group lesson. I use neutral phrases that don’t place blame on anyone, even if I have a hunch about what happened. Then, I suggest that my kids play separately (which usually results in them wanting to play together more. Funny how that works.).
4 | Model respect to your kids, so that they will follow your lead.
I always say that parents have to be the model for what they want their kids to do. If you want your kids to get along with each other and respect each other, then you have to model that for them. You can’t expect your kids to speak kindly to one another if you, as the parent, are not doing the same. This is not a “do what I say, not as I do” thing. It’s just not.
Modeling respect is my number one priority, as I practice peaceful parenting. It didn’t take me long to figure out that after I raised my voice at my son, my daughter started treating him differently. It was like she figured since I had been disrespectful, then she must be allowed to do the same. Oh how my heart broke. I vowed that I would only model respect and if I slipped up, there would be a genuine apology and reconnection made immediately.
Guess what? It has worked! The more I keep my cool and model respect toward my kids, the more my kids get along and respect each other.
When we model respect toward one another in our families, it becomes ingrained in our kids. Respect is THE most important thing for kids to learn in order to foster healthy relationships. When your kids respect each other, the rest of their relationship will come quite easily.
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The book that is a game changer for strengthening sibling bonds and reducing sibling fighting.
I knew that once my youngest child was old enough to hit his sister (and mean it), that I needed more tools in my parenting tool belt. I was on a mission to nurture my kids’ bond and wanted to make darn sure that it would last into adulthood.
I was raised with only sisters, who are a bit older than me, so I didn’t really have to compete for attention growing up. That’s not the case with my kids, who are 2 years apart. Also, the girl-boy dynamic threw me for a loop when it comes to parenting.
It doesn’t matter if you’re raising all girls, all boys, or a mixture of both. The book Siblings Without Rivalry is an absolutely amazing book that helped me understand the relationship between kids. It really dives in to how we, as parents, can validate our kids AND stay neutral during times of disagreements.
Not only does the book address how to handle full-on sibling fights, but it also takes a look at how to prevent sibling rivalry. I never knew that some of the most common and innocent occurrences within families, are actually the most damaging to sibling relationships.
Siblings Without Rivalry is a book that I go back to when I realize that my kids as my kids grow up. I found that a lot of the examples were applicable to older kids, and now that my kids are older I can use the advice!
I can promise that if you are the parent to more than one child, you will use this book time and again to address your kids’ relationships with one another.
Final thoughts on siblings fighting.
Siblings fighting is at the top of the list when it comes to parenting difficulties. It is stressful to try and create a loving bond between your kids, while also raising them to be great people. No relationship is perfect, and it definitely takes intentionality to ensure a peaceful and fun sibling bond, but it is so worth it! By recognizing what role we should take, as parents, we can avoid sibling rivalry and create a relationship that they want to nurture, even when we are gone.