Mummy, see Aqib is beating me', complains my daughter. As my younger child is growing, my home echoes with such cries quite often. Initially, Asya restrained from hitting her brother but now she has also started hitting back. Again, it's really amazing to see how they long to play with each other just minutes after the whole drama. Yes, I am talking about the sibling fight, a unique way to develop healthy sibling bonding and in the process, learning the life skills of expressing their feelings, identifying real problems, resolving issues, making adjustments, forgetting, forgiving and moving on. Thus, sibling fight is common and necessary too. But sometimes, it might go overboard and you have to intervene. As a parent, one must decide as to how much is too much and where to draw the line.
- They are physically hurting each other
- Emotions are running high like crying, yelling or calling names.
- Either or both are getting aggressive
- One is bullying the other
First, be calm and listen to the fight and try to get the overall picture. Do not rush as a warrior, already two are there on the battlefield, there's definitely no need for a third one! Rather than trying to figure out the cause of the fight or who started it, be a peacemaker. First, stop the fight and then help them be friends again. Make them shake hands, kiss each other or say ‘sorry' to each other.
Do not take sides
Do not take sides when you intervene even if one of the kids is relatively younger. Suppose, they are fighting over a toy, do not take that toy and give it to the younger one. Rather, take it away so that none gets to play with it. Also, if the younger one is bent on hitting the older one, do not allow him; hold his hands; no matter how much he yells or cries, do not give in. Equal treatment should be meted out to both. Do not shout at one in front of the other. If need be, empathize in private.
Do not blame
Remember the kids are not mature enough to resolve issues every time. This inability shows that they lack the basic skills of problem resolution and you can help them learn it. Blaming is not going to help. It creates bullies and victims.
Listen to both
Give both, the chance to explain their points. Make them both feel heard. Let each child listen to the other's story so as to develop empathy towards each other.
Be Firm, Yet Gentle
You have to deal with firmness but still do not lose your cool. Do not be harsh on them. Avoid any physical punishments because punishments only increase the feeling of resentment.
If you feel that one is bullying the other, talk to them separately. Make them understand the consequences of their actions. Also, try to find out the reasons of their anger towards their siblings. Are they feeling insecure in any way or are some issues bothering them?
Planning in Advance to Prevent Fights
- Remove the object that would trigger a fight like a remote or mobile phones. However this is not a practical solution as kids can pick up a fight on anything and everything.
- Do not ever compare your kids with each other. Respect their individuality.
- Share your time equally with both the kids. One must not feel unloved, uncared or unwanted.
- Do not label your elder child as ‘elder' and ask him to take responsibility of the younger one.
- Understand individual's needs and demands.
- Teach them to respect one and all in the family irrespective of age.
- Share stories that deal with sibling and family bonding.
- Set rules and punishments. For me, if one hits the other, then the other should complain to us rather than hitting back.
- Set rewards for playing together without fighting.
- Be a role model. Never fight in front of your kids, otherwise, they will get a feeling that fighting is alright.
- Never ever forget that you are dealing with kids.
No matter how much we try, we cannot stop sibling fights altogether. But our motive should be to teach them to resolve conflicts and become friends in the course of time. They should know the value of family cooperation and peace.
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