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Siblings fighting

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When siblings fight


More, and comments on settling kids' fights

Does anyone have any advice on sibling fighting? It's usually the same story my older son picks on the younger one until he gets mad and pounces on his brother. It doesn't seem that anything we try is working. Today the older one woke up with a black eye and scratches all over his face which was the result of Starwars play gone bad.


Sandra Dodd

If your child had a black eye and scratches on his face but he didn't have a sibling, would you still blame Star Wars?


Would you let a neighbor do that to him? A stranger?


If the older one is picking on the younger one, intervene in some subtle way. Separate them without them feeling like mom stepped in and separated them.


You might call the older one away (with a nice voice) and ask him to help you do something really brief, like give the dog water, or take a bag of trash out --something that makes him feel bigger, not smaller. It might be all the time he needs to calm down, and if it involves physical activity it will help him breath a bit and see a different scene.


I don't know what you've tried so far, but each of your children needs to feel safe in his own home, and "letting them work it out" is cruel, even if nobody's getting a black eye. There are deeper scars than bruises that some people carry through life because of things siblings said or did, while the parents didn't even know.


Here are some ideas I've used with my three kids, who are 2.5 and 3 years apart: When Siblings Fight.


My dd feels like her little brother enjoys bothering her and won't stop when she says stop.


Ren Allen

Are you present when this happens? Are you letting him know that stop means stop NOW?


When someone says stop in this house, I jump in very quickly if the "stop" is ignored. I remind them that personal boundaries are very important and I either get them away from each other (obviously they need space if they're getting edgy), or find something to do where I am present and able to head things off at the pass so to speak.


I assume that they simply don't have the needed skills for useful negotiation and need an arbitrator if a fight breaks out. It is my job to keep things safe for everyone and if an older sibling is ignoring boundaries, it's time for me to step in and find a way to re-direct their energy OR arbitrate for them. Rather than playing the blame game, I explain why someone didn't like the behavior and simply find a short term solution.


Talking and discussing too much, only shuts them down to the negotiation process. They can only take in what they're ready for at the moment, and sometimes it's just better to re-direct the play and be present.



How do you deal with conflict in your homes? I understand that with mutual respect the ideal will be that conflict is hardly experienced but with varying personalities in a household there is bound to be some.


Ren Allen

I guess we've come so far in regards to this, the only two that seem to have conflicts anymore are my youngest. Sierra is 8 and Jalen is almost 5 and if it weren't for his intensity, I don't think even they would fight. But here's how we deal with conflict. First of all (and most importantly) I don't view conflict as fighting. It's a disagreement. Unless people are trying to hit or hurt in some way, it's just a disagreement. Kids need to have disagreements with each other (and with us) in order to figure out the world, develop their own ideas and stake their ground on this earth.


So conflict isn't necessarily a bad thing. It's HOW we "discuss"/argue that matters. And I expect young children to NOT have the necessary tools for healthy disagreement, they just don't have the experience or maturity for it yet. So my presence is the most important factor. If they're having a great day, things are going along smoothly, I still check in and connect with them occasionally (this really helps Jalen especially). If things are rough, right from the get-go, I KNOW that's my cue to stay present with them. It's a sign that they can't handle things on their own and need an advocate.


When a conflict arises "MOM, Jalen grabbed my playdough" I ask her to please let me handle it and I talk calmly and quietly to him. I tell him that he needs to give it back and can we find another color (or whatever it is HE needs to feel safe enough to hand it back).


It takes time and patience, but we're the adults and need to model healthy behavior amidst conflict (I don't always do this btw, but it gets easier and easier).


Sometimes they both need to tell me how mad they are at the other person, listening deeply to them solves the problem. Sometimes I have to stay right there, because Jalen is provoking it all ... and if it can't be solved that way, I get him AWAY from her.


One of my other tools, is getting one of them busy with something fun (the computer really works well) and spending some one on one time with the other. If you have 3 or more that are dealing with conflict, you might have to get really creative! :) Finding a game to play, having some cuddle time, basically look at it as "filling them up". Once they have all the Mom love, the day can really smooth out.


Another tool is CHANGE OF SCENERY! When there is conflict, or yucky energy in the house, getting out and doing something different, or just driving around can help. Make sure you know what is causing the conflict first, because hungry or tired kids aren't going to make a shift by going somewhere new!! It's just going to make your day worse.


BUT, if it's just a general negative energy because maybe they need different stimulation, then a park or drive or walk or throwing stones in the creek or?? can really help.


Another way to shift the energy is to bring out some new and interesting foods or toys. I like having artsy stuff, or snacks that we haven't tried yet or little (dollar store) stickers or toys hidden away for desperate moments. That's a great distraction and can also give you a bit of time with one child. Changes the energy in the home very quickly most of the time.


We have a standing protocol here. If you have a conflict you use your WORDS with the other person and tell them to STOP. If that does not work, you go find an advocate (parent or older sib) to assist you in dealing with the conflict. If none of the above works, THEN you can hit. Well, we never get to the third phase, because the advocate always works. :) I coach them a lot as to "you could try this next time" or "use words" or "talk calmly when you're telling her" etc...


Just generally useful conflict resolution techniques. And they get better and better at it as they get older. Amazingly better!


If something does get to the harm stage, we definitely separate them. Not as a punishment at all ... it's a time to keep the victim safe and talk with both of them about what happened (they usually need sympathy on both ends and then ideas about how to handle it better next time) and give lots of hugs. When I'm really in tune with them, being present, this just doesn't happen. So when you hear a lot of conflict, ugly voices etc. ... that's your cue to BE in their world completely and totally. It's just a cue, not anything to get upset about, not anything more than your call to be the best parent you can be at that moment.


Joyfully Rejoycing
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