Sibling arguments, fights, brawls, and angry wrestling matches are just par for the course in summer months. Especially if siblings get to spend more time at home and with each other than during the school months. This increase in violence (albeit normal and developmentally appropriate) can sometimes be enough to drive a parent to the brink of sanity. Fortunately, there are lots of useful and effective strategies to implement to help reduce the ruckus. Love and Logic is a well known and proven method and framework from which parents (and teachers) can work with kids in challenging situations. Here is what Found Dr. Jim Fay has to say about fighting siblings.
What’s a parent to do when the kids are at each other’s throats and the living room looks like ﬁnals at the international wrestling championship? The ﬁrst step toward success is understanding some of the reasons why siblings bicker and ﬁght. Why is it that our children—our ﬂesh and blood—often go for ﬂesh and blood?
Let’s ﬁrst recognize that sibling conﬂicts are generally a pretty typical and normal part of family life. In fact, one might argue that these conﬂicts are good training for life. That is, by negotiating childhood conﬂicts with their brothers or sisters, our kids learn valuable skills for getting along with others in the real world.
For this learning to happen, the following must take place in the home:
- Children must witness their parents working out disagreements in a cooperative and nonviolent manner. Kids learn a lot from watching us.
- Parents must place primary responsibility for solving sibling conﬂicts on the parties involved—the kids! In other words, parents stay out of it.
- Parents share ideas on how the conﬂict might be resolved in a healthy manner.
Another reason siblings ﬁght is because it gets them attention and control. When parents yell or lecture to determine “who started it,” to get their kids to “knock it off,” or to get their children to “say sorry and shake hands,” the parents are doing more thinking and worrying than the kids!
Soon the children learn on an unconscious level that they can control the color of their parents’ faces, the volume of their voices, their reserves of emotional energy, and the potential longevity of their cardiovascular systems.
And have you ever noticed how your kids tend to start a ﬁght just as you start talking on the phone or start a quiet conversation with your spouse? What better way to control your parents?
Fortunately, parents can do three things to keep their children from learning these unhealthy patterns:
- Parents take care of themselves by making sure the conﬂict happens somewhere they can’t see or hear it. They say, “Feel free to continue this argument someplace where it doesn’t hassle my eyes or ears.”
- If the parents are interrupted or inconvenienced by the ﬁghting, they say, “This is so sad. How are you going to repay us for interrupting our conversation? Raking the yard will do.”
- If one or both children resist completing the chore, the parent calmly says, “I’ll be happy to do the things I do for you around here when you decide to contribute to this family by doing chores.” The parent “goes on strike” until the child complies. In the meantime, the child can survive on “boring” and “yucky” food like apples, oranges, cold fried chicken, etc.
Stay tuned for more ideas and workable strategies from Love and Logic.