The rules are simple:
1. Under no circumstances can harm be caused to a sibling.
Physical harm is the major concern, but verbal abuse cannot be allowed either. Both are cruel, harm self esteem, and mar relationships over the entire lifetime of the siblings.
2. Kids have to learn to work out their conflicts on their own without fighting.
Parents must be prepared to teach them to respect one another, to cooperate, to share, and to compromise. That’s a lot to ask for when children are younger and have weak verbal skills. But children learn by doing. Lecturing doesn’t work.
When they are older, if left alone they may learn to negotiate and compromise to resolve disputes. Siblings can determine limits of aggression that will not escalate, make either of them mad, or cause parents to intervene.
Basic Guidelines for Parents
Parents must pay close attention to their kids’ conflicts.
Listen carefully to ongoing arguments. Keep track of each child’s feelings of unfairness and favouritism, triumph or loss. Monitor their fights carefully.
Both parents should help control their children’s behaviour.
Hopefully their approaches are not contradictory.
Constantly reassure your children that you love them.
When they misbehave, make sure they understand it’s the behaviour you don’t like.
Recognize good behaviour.
Children often misbehave to gain attention; it seems their good behaviour is not noticed. Pay attention and acknowledge good behaviour no matter how small or brief.
Do not take sides and favour one child over the other.
You may think you are not biased, but still one child may feel disfavoured. Try to identify what the underlying causes of these feelings might be.
Decide how much fighting is enough.
Set ground rules and limits that you will enforce. Parents have to know “when to stay out of it” or when to intervene or participate in their children’s conflict resolution process. The next post will cover this in more detail.
Deal with your own feelings first.
You must make sense of your own feelings and expectations. Are you getting angry when you need to concentrate on your children’s feelings. Do you need to drop your fantasies about family bliss and harmony and focus on effective problem solving and character development.
Deal with the children’s feelings.
Young children are “emotional” beings first and “thinking“ beings second, if at all. Their feelings have to be dealt with immediately. They need to be shown how to express their feelings and allow their sibling to do the same.
First, get them settled and calm.
Then ask questions about what happened before deciding the consequences. Easier said then done! But do it without getting angry yourself. Yelling does not help. Learn when to be a strict enforcer and when to be peaceful and perhaps humorous.
Encourage them to listen.
Good communication means both sides listen to each others’ needs and views and then respect them.