Dear Dr. Renee,
I can’t handle the fighting! My kids argue over everything and over even the littlest things. Please help me make this stop!
Sick of Sibling Spats,
(mom of three: 5, 8, 10 years old)
You sound exhausted!
Fortunately, it does not seem like the fighting you describe is cruel or intending harm. No child should have to grow up afraid of being seriously injured or emotionally abused by a sibling.
Most sibling spats are minor and kids tend to get over them quickly. However, you should not have to listen to it all day long! Let’s get this fighting over and done with, at least for the most part, so you can focus on other things.
I’ll start by congratulating you on helping your children develop essential life skills. It sounds like they have had ample opportunities to practice. 😉
These sibling spats actually help provide a safe place for children to test-drive conflict resolution skills. These spats help a child learn when to stand up for themselves, when to back off, in order to keep the peace.
Be a guide, not a referee.
As a parent, you want to be a guide, not a referee. Your job is to coach them through problem-solving and conflict resolution. You want to help your children be able to express themselves clearly and be able to listen to their sibling’s needs, too.
There is good news! You can anticipate spats, in order to head them off before they happen. My daughters often heard me say “Please be kind to your sister today. She didn’t get a lot of sleep last night* so she may be grumpy or say things she regrets. Try to give her space and not get upset by it.”
(*substitute with whatever the situation may be: is stressed about school, hasn’t had lunch yet, was hurt by a friend, is nervous about a big tournament/performance, etc.)
When they were little, if I knew one was tired, I would try to have individual activities, or separate play dates, for my girls. There was less of a chance for a sibling spat to occur.
Hang in there and do what you can to be proactive. By guiding your kids through problem-solving and conflict resolution experiences (=nice way of saying “fighting”), you are setting them up with essential life skills that will help them in the future.
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