I often get this kind of question from concerned parents.
‘What can I do to help my kids, my sons are 7 and 3 and they are constantly fighting with each other ?
Parents, you are not alone. All families with kids have experienced siblings fighting with each other but also wanting to play with each other. It is frustrating and upsetting at times. We all want kids to get along and sometimes the constant bickering can get on our nerves. Parents feel unable to stop it. Some fighting is ‘normal’, but when the constant fighting gets out of hand, I like to suggest some basic rules and principles to follow at home.
1. Do give individual attention to each child : Kids like attention from parents and even if means spending 10-15 minutes with each child, it will be very helpful to children and parents. Use this time to enjoy your child, engage with the child and talk to them.
2. Do intervene before a fight erupts. As an example, if kids are rough housing and playing, do intervene before it turns into a fight. Be aware of situations that can end up in a fight.
3. Do keep the kids occupied and if possible with different activities. A bored child will look to entertain herself/himself and that can end up in a fight. Hungry and tired kids dont often know how to respond.
4. Do teach the kids problem solving and negotiation. Teach them win/win strategies, for example, one of the kids can divide the candy, the other one gets to pick first. Playing games/ sharing time and negotiating with the game and time.
5. Do enforce standards of respect at home and set a good example. Please do make sure that parents or older siblings are not using curse words or calling names. Kids imitate parents and older siblings. Set up an expectation that if adults or kids are disrespectful they will work to show to apologize. If parents are yelling and show their anger by shouting, kids will learn that behavior. So please be mindful.
6. Do teach the kids that feeling angry is OK, but calling demeaning names, hitting and punching is not OK. Make a list of all the healthy ways people can handle their anger. For example, put on head phones and listen to music, go outside and play basketball, talk to an adult, count to 10, breath deeply and count backwards to 10. Model these healthy ways to calm yourself.
7. Do Brainstorm with the kids on how to resolve conflicts. Keep a list on the fridge and use the list to model problem solving skills.
8. Do talk to the ‘hitter’ and age appropriately teach the child self management skills. An 8 year old child can learn to control emotions, and learn to recognize frustration, hurt etc. A 3 year old can learn to ‘keep hands by her side’ , for example.
There are a number of books on the subject that are very helpful. One of my favorites is
Siblings Without Rivalry: How to Help Your Children Live Together So You Can Live Too by Adele Faber, Elaine Mazlish and Kimberly Ann Coe (Aug 12, 2013)
If you would like more help and would like to talk to me, please call 201-952-9905