I have two girls with 18-month age gap. As much as I love them, there are moments – well, a lot of them – when I just want to scream and say, “Stop fighting!”
At first, it was typical teasing or making faces towards each other. Then it escalated to that’s-mine-no-it’s-mine arguments or who does it better. Then, there were physical fights like one is scratching while the other gets back by punching or kicking. In other words, sibling rivalry at home is at its worst.
Of course, as a parent, I wouldn’t allow it. I mean who wants to have kids who are constantly fighting against each other, right? So, I set some rules on what NOT to do when my kids fight:
- Taking sides since this could lead to feeling of resentment
- Assuming who started the fight since we don’t know what really happened
- Deciding on who is right or wrong because, again, we don’t know exactly what happened
- Sending one out to the other room
- Forcing kids to kiss and make up without resolving what happened first
- Letting the kids resolve the fight by themselves all the time
- Becoming the judge
Then, there are things to remember in managing sibling fighting:
- De-escalate the fight
- Listen to your kids by allowing them to articulate their feelings without attacking each other
- Validate their emotions since it’s normal to feel sad or mad
- Help kids say what needs to be said
- Touch both kids so one won’t feel left out
- Respect their feelings
- Become a coach in resolving the sibling fight
It’s never easy to handle sibling fights. There are moments when I just lose myself and tell them to stop, which believe me, did not resolve the fight. It took me a lot of self-control to manage the screaming and fighting but things like this must never go out of hand. Otherwise, they will pick up these attitudes and bring it outside our home, which I never want to happen.
So, how do we do it? These tips help:
Tip No. 1: Words Matter
Our choice of words could trigger tons of emotions, especially for kids who are not mature enough to handle them. This is why it is important to be careful and choose our words wisely when dealing with sibling rivalry.
For instance, instead of saying “Why did you do that?,” or “Why did you hurt your sister?” say “I can see that you are sad/upset about something.”
Tip No. 2: Let Kids Talk
Kids need to be heard, especially when it involves fight. You also don’t know what happened exactly, which led to the fight. Therefore, allow the kids to talk and be heard. Let them articulate their feelings and tell their version of the story WITHOUT attacking the other sibling. This way, we will be able to understand what exactly happened.
Why is it important to let kids talk? Again, we don’t know exactly what happened. This is why we need to encourage our kids to speak up to make them feel they are understood and listened to. Otherwise, we will breed a culture of resentment, which could have deleterious effects as our kids get older.
Tip No. 3: De-Escalate The Fight
This is important. I don’t like engaging during the heat of the moment so as much as possible, I do my best to de-escalate the fight and keep everyone calm. This will make it easier for us to achieve a solution since how can we resolve something when everyone is angry, right?
It also helps when I say, “Let’s solve this together,” so the kids will know that mommy is willing to work with them.
Tip No. 4: Be A Coach, Not A Judge
I used to decide everything for my kids. Now that they are bigger, they want to do things their way – and I need to respect that, with limitations, of course. When it comes to managing sibling fights, I make sure that I respect their decisions as well.
What does this mean? Instead of acting as a judge and telling them to do this and that, I help them on how to resolve the fight where everybody is happy. Ask all parties and suggest possible solutions that everyone can agree on.
Deciding for the kids will make them feel that they are not understood and their feelings are invalidated, which I don’t want to happen.
Tip No. 5: When All Else Fails, Separate Them
I’ve done this several times. Despite my best efforts to maintain harmony at home, there are instances when kids are not yet ready to kiss and make-up. THAT’S OKAY.
When that happens, I separate them. I allow the issue to die down first to keep everyone calm. Once they are ready to talk, I sit with them and ask what happened. We also try our best to resolve the issue to ensure that it won’t happen again.
I have to admit that there are times when I don’t follow these tips. It’s fine and I constantly remind myself that it’s okay. Managing sibling fights is tricky and will take a lot of practice, patience, and self-control. It’s okay, momma. You can do it, too!