Over the past few months, as my younger daughter’s personality is emerging more and more, I have noticed the fighting between the two of them is escalating. They seem to fight over just about anything and everything these days. One wants to hold hands, the other doesn’t, one wants to play in the tunnel, the other seems to think that is the time it just has to be put away. And if one or the other even thinks about picking up a toy, the other one instantly wants it and wants it NOW!
What is the best way to handle all of the fighting? Do I step in? Do I ignore it and let them work it out on their own? They are 4 and 2 years old so sometimes I feel like I need to step in just to make sure everyone is safe. I know it’s normal for siblings to fight, but how much is too much and what can or should I do?
I found some great tips on how to get involved (when needed) without solving the problem for your kids:
· Separate kids until they’re calm. Sometimes it’s best just to give them space for a little while and not immediately rehash the conflict.
· Don’t put too much focus on figuring out which child is to blame. It takes two to fight. All involved in the conflict are responsible.
· Try to set up a “win-win” situation so that each child gains something. When they both want the same toy, perhaps there is a game they could play together instead.
Remember, as kids cope with disputes, they also learn important skills that will serve them for life like how to value another person’s perspective, how to compromise, and how to control aggressive impulses.
I also found these proactive things you can do to help kids get along:
· Set ground rules for acceptable behavior. Tell the kids that there's no swearing, no name-calling, no yelling, no door slamming. Solicit their input on the rules — as well as the consequences when they break them. This teaches kids that they're responsible for their own actions, regardless of the situation or how provoked they felt, and discourages any attempts to negotiate regarding who was "right" or "wrong."
· Don't let kids make you think that everything always has to be "fair" and "equal" — sometimes one kid needs more than the other.
· Be proactive in giving your kids one-on-one attention directed to their interests and needs. For example, if one likes to go outdoors, take a walk or go to the park. If another child likes to sit and read, make time for that too.
· Make sure kids have their own space and time to do their own thing — to play with toys by themselves, to play with friends without a sibling tagging along, or to enjoy activities without having to share 50-50.
· Have fun together as a family. Whether you're watching a movie, throwing a ball, or playing a board game, you're establishing a peaceful way for your kids to spend time together and relate to each other. This can help ease tensions between them and also keeps you involved. Since parental attention is something many kids fight over, fun family activities can help reduce conflict.
· If your children frequently squabble over the same things (such as video games or the TV remote), post a schedule showing which child "owns" that item at what times during the week. (But if they keep fighting about it, take the "prize" away altogether.)
· Recognize when kids just need time apart from each other and the family dynamics. Try arranging separate play dates or activities for each kid occasionally. And when one child is on a play date, you can spend one-on-one time with another.
· Keep in mind that sometimes kids fight to get a parent's attention. In that case, consider taking a time-out of your own. When you leave, the incentive for fighting is gone. Also, when your own fuse is getting short, consider handing the reins over to the other parent, whose patience may be greater at that moment.
What about you? What do you do when your kids fight? Do you have a magic solution for those of us that are just trying to figure this sibling rivalry thing out? We would love to hear your advice!