Are you tired playing referee between sibling squabbles? Do you sometimes find yourself yelling, "cut it out," to stop your kids from yelling at each other? Sibling rivalry is unavoidable in family life, however helping the kids learn to settle their own conflicts will get you out of the middle. When siblings are teasing one other, bickering over the toys, or fighting about who gets the biggest cookie, it's time to take the battle ground to the peace table. With coaching from you even toddlers can begin settling quarrels with friendly negotiations.
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Look for the underlying cause. To minimize your kid's quarreling recognize what is triggering the outbursts. Is your child tired, hungry, feeling left out, needing more of your attention, or bored? If you suspect that this may be the cause, ask, "What can we do to make things better?'
Encourage siblings to talk about what's going on. Talking things through eliminates sulking and whining. You might ask: "I wonder what started this fight? or "Are you willing to tell me what happened?" Or simply say: "Let's talk about it at the peace table."
Sit at the peace table. A peace table is a designated spot where everyone can talk with out being interrupted. Each child takes a turn explaining what happened. The peace table is a safe place where everyone gets a chance to be heard.
Remind the kids about the rules of conduct: no name calling, no hitting, no shoving allowed. At the peace table everyone gets a turn to listen and a turn to talk.
Let all the kids suggest a solution. Don't underestimate kids ability to solve the problems. As the parent you are the leader in the negotiation. Ask each child, "What is your solution?" Remember conflicts are not all bad. In fact solving a disagreement often brings kids closer. Tell the kids, "I know you will figure this out." Tell them that you are glad that they are learning to solve conflicts by negotiating.
Don't force togetherness. While it is okay to encourage siblings to share their possessions and toys, it is not okay to force. Forcing causes resentments which leads to more bickering later.
Give genuine approval when they work things through and cooperate.
Tips and warnings
- The more you can teach children to solve their own conflicts, the quicker their fighting will end.
- Be aware that your children are learning by observing and mimicking how you handle your disagreements.