Ever felt like you are a referee at home in the boxing ring?
Parents say kids fighting, teasing and arguing at home is one of the most stressful things about being a parent. It can drive parents ‘crazy’.
Many parents say that whenever they try to sort out problems between siblings or apply rules, one or both complain that the parent is unfair or accuses the parent of favouring one child over the other. This creates tension and confusion and arguments break out at home giving parents no peace.
It gets even more complicated when one child has a diagnosis or disability like ADHD, dyslexia or autism – siblings sometimes see that the child with greater need of support as a nuisance taking away their parent’s love, affection or getting more attention from the parent – again they cry, it’s not fair! At the same time, brothers and sisters can sometimes feel guilty for expressing their feelings and feel ashamed of being jealous of the child with a disability. And get this: childhood squabbles and resentments can carry over into adult life with grown adults still carrying out their childhood fights and squabbles.
But are there any benefits to children – are there any life lessons to be learned through fighting and arguing with brothers or sisters at home? Most parents share the belief that mild bickering and squabbles between siblings is normal and can be useful in learning conflict resolution skills for later life.
But do they actually learn anything? Several research studies indicate that siblings rarely actually resolve their problems! Parents can, however, learn skills to manage their children’s arguments and fighting at home and enjoy the peace they deserve. For happier homes with less fighting and sibling rivalry, get Dr Wright’s 8 essential tips for parents and enjoy a more peaceful home life with happier kids.
DR Wright’s 10 tips on sibling rivalry and fighting
1 Establish basic communication principles for home. Teach them to value one another by taking turns to speak and listen – it’s called ‘active listening’ – they are more likely to both end up happy.
2 Children imitate adult behaviour. Check that you as parent are modelling appropriate conflict resolution interactions with other adults in your child’s world.
3 Observe trigger points. Put systems in place to alleviate potential problems. For example, if children fight over a TV program, work out a system of cooperation.
4 Note your own responses when your children argue. Do you step in quickly and take sides or take control? Reflect and consider changes you may wish to make.
5 Insist that your children do not use name calling and avoid comparing your children with one another by saying things like “why don’t you be kind like your brother?”
6 Encourage and reward cooperation. When one child in the family helps another, give attention to this.
7 Teach your children to respect one another’s privacy and rights of ownership. Avoid expecting children to share absolutely everything.
8 If a child has a diagnosis or disability, help brothers and sisters understand that ‘same’ does not necessarily mean ‘fair’.
9 When you need to apply different ‘rules’ to children taking into account their ages and levels of abilities, take a moment to explain this to the other child – but take care not to enter into a long discussion about it.
10 Develop your attachment between your parent ‘self’ and your child. The easiest and most enjoyable way of doing this is to do a simple ‘special’ activity with each child. It need not be every day, but special times will be long remembered. In my book 80 Activities for a Bright Baby you will find loads of such activities to do for young children, many of which can be extended for older children.