By now you’ve figured out that parenting isn’t a fairytale only filled with hugs, kisses, and sweetness, even though many times it is. By now you’ve realized that family life is complicated, and siblings bring that reality home on a daily basis.
Bickering siblings use an irritating snippy form of communication that attempts to lay claim to something or someone. Few parents have patience for this type of communication.
Bickering, at its root, is trying to answer the inaudible question floating in the air, “Do you love me more than him/her?
How a parent deals with bickering determines whether they’re adding fuel to the fire, or not.
Even though siblings tend to use a raw unedited honesty with each other, they are teaching each other many life skills needed to be successful in this world.
Siblings teach each other about love and support, cooperation and team work, tolerance and how to deal with frustration, conflict resolution, leadership and negotiation skills.
When a parent says things like, “I know you started this?” or “Stop picking on your sister?” or “You know better than to do that to your brother!” you are unintentionally throwing another log on the fire, so to speak.
Sibling Bickering and Arguing Strike at the Core of a Parent’s Heart
When parents hear their kid’s fighting, a predictable stream of thought begins.
You ask yourself, “Why don’t my kids love each other?”
Then you fear, “Will they grow up hating each other?”
Then you recoil in horror and wonder, “Did I do something to cause my kids to act this way?”
It’s no wonder parents will do almost anything to make the bickering, competition, comparison, and arguing stop. Unfortunately, some of the ways parents have attempted to make the fighting stop, actually stops their kids from resolving the issue at hand.
Here are 6 ways parents can begin to mindfully facilitate, not reactively dominate, sibling disagreements.
#1—Equally Rights for All
“Children don’t need to be treated equally, they need to be treated uniquely.” Faber and Mazlish
1. Neither child feels truly known.
2. They become suspicious, not satisfied.
3. They begin to compete with each other hoping to force mom or dad to reveal who they love more.
Michelle Borba stated in an iVillage article (July 2007)
“As much as we try to not show favoritism, studies reveal that kids do pick up our preferences.”
When favoritism appears, jealousy rears its head, causing siblings to resent each other and fight.
Solution: Even if you know who probably started the fight, stay away from casting a perpetrator and a victim.
#2—Falling for the Fairness Trap
Life isn’t completely fair and equal. Family life needs to prepare kids for the real world outside their front door, not protect them from it. You don’t need to be unfair, you can empower your kids by letting them make some decisions.
Solution: Instead of always making sure things are fair, let children make choices based on what’s best for them as an individual. This stops competition and satisfies their basic need to be seen for who they truly are.
Child: “He has a bigger piece than I do!” Mom: “There, now it’s fair, you each have the same amount.”
Mom: “I’m cutting up apples. What does your tummy want, 3 or 4 slices?”
#3—The Squeaky Wheel
There are times, in all families, when one child just needs your attention more than the others. If you spend most of your time with the sibling who’s acting out, you’re showing both children that the best way to get one-on-one time with my parent is through misbehavior.
Solution: Acknowledge the child who acts out, and spend some time with the child who is managing things without acting out. This not only shows a responsible child that she’s being seen and acknowledged for her responsibility, it also models what’s possible for the child who is less responsible.
#4—Comparing Apples to Oranges
Nothing makes a child feel more invisible that being compared to a sibling.
Dad: “Why can’t you be as neat as your brother?”
Dad: “I like how you’ve lined your books up. Do you think that idea would work to organize your shoes, too?”
Solution: Frame your comments in a way that acknowledges her success, and then guide her toward the outcome you’re looking for by asking a question that expands her understanding of what’s possible. Having her decide if this idea will work for another problem she’s facing, empowers her and allows her to experience the bump in self-esteem that occurs when she realizes she’s on the right-decision-making-path.
If you argue and sweat the small stuff every day, you’re sending a silent message that contributes to sibling bickering. Focusing on the small stuff models that way to resolve things is through whining, complaining, and blaming, not through cooperation and problem solving.
Solution: Pick your battles, and remember there’s more than one way of doing things. It may not be how you would do it, or the best way to do it, but things get done just the same.
#6—How Do Others Do It?
There are many, many ways to problem solve, but in order to learn them, you have to respectfully and privately watch how others do things.
Solution: Watch any and all situations to see how others resolve problems. Talk with your child’s about how other families solve problems, how other kids solve problems on the playground, and discuss how TV shows resolve things. Highlight what’s good and bad about the way things were resolved, and ask your child for their opinion. Ask them to share any better ideas, if they have them. Or challenge them to tell you why they the resolution others chose worked for them? Just make sure to include the fact that life doesn’t resolve things in 21 minutes like a TV show does.
Today was part #1 of cracking the sibling code. It’s a big conversation, so, tomorrow’s post will be part #2. How to Facilitate, not Dominate, Sibling Bickering and Fighting.
See you then.
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