Dear Dr. Renee,
My 8- and 10-year-old daughters are fighting! I am not talking about wrestling for fun. I am talking about kicking and hitting each other when they get mad. What should I do when they start to pull punches? How can I get this to stop?
Little kids feel big emotions. Big emotions that they are not able to handle in a calm, adult manner. Nearly all kids pull punches (fight physically) from time to time as they try to get rid of or express some of those emotions.
4 Things You Can Do when Things Get Physical
- Be Proactive
When things are calm, establish the ground rules. “Our family does not hurt anyone physically.” Explain the consequences when someone breaks the rules and make sure you follow through (this can be the toughest part). Our girls lost all access to electronics for 24 hours, even their phones.
It is also important to provide your children with alternatives that are OK for them to do when they are angry or frustrated with a sibling.
- Be a Buffer
We all know that even when you set the ground rules, it takes time for kids to learn and follow them. When you catch your children pulling punches, stand between them to help physically separate them. Remain calm and if possible, put a hand on each child’s shoulder or back, to help them feel connected and calm down.
- Help Your Children Work It Out and Make Amends
You want to guide your children through conflict resolution. Both children want to feel heard and both children need to understand where the other one is coming from. Then give the aggressor a chance to not just apologize, which is important, but also to make amends for her behavior. If she broke something, have her work to fix it or help pay to fix it (she might have to do extra chores to earn the money).
- Follow up
Again, when things are calm, sit with each child and follow up. Let her know that you were concerned about her behavior. Remind her of the ground rules. Then let her know that you are not worried, you trust she will do things differently next time. This plants the seeds of trust and the understanding that you believe in your daughter.
This doesn’t happen overnight. However, if you can work through these 4 things with your daughters, the physical fighting should decrease, and pulling punches will become non-existent. If you want a little coaching or a personal cheerleader to get through the rough spots, feel free to contact me.
Check out these other posts for ways to help stop sibling fights: