Minimizing Sibling Rivalry
We have a massive slip-n-slide set up at my house right now.
It is magical and the kids have so much fun… until someone takes someone’s boogie board, or hits someone else with a boogie board.
Then the crying begins… and that’s my cue to get involved.
I believe that teaching and correcting my kids is one of my greatest privileges, so I don’t mind it most of the time these days, but it wasn’t always that way…
Old me used to yell a lot, get mad at everyone, tell them that they knew better, reiterate that they shouldn’t hit or shouldn’t take things from people, pass out consequences, and insist that they make things right and apologize before playing again.
That strategy left everyone mad and resentful, and it didn’t seem like the fighting was stopping.
My kids continued fighting, I continued yelling, and everything seemed to be escalating.
But things are different now.
Fights still happen, but with much less frequency, and without the resentment and anger typical associated with them.
Most of the time now, my children are the best of friends.
That’s because my method of handling rivalry helps my children develop compassion for their siblings, and recognize their own inner power.
This method helps them stop being victims and start being in control.
There are still fights at my house, but they happen less often, without me freaking out (mostly... I’m still human), and with the end result of more love.
When contrasted with the old end result of resentful kids and parents, this way is a clear winner.
So if your kids are fighting and you are ready to pull your hair out, read on.
How to Minimize Sibling Rivalry:
To begin, let’s look at what rivalry and fighting looks like.
Fights between two children usually happen in a recognizable pattern.
It goes like this:
Child A does something.
Child B thinks that Child A shouldn’t have done that (it wasn’t their turn, it’s not fair, they are being mean and they shouldn’t be mean, etc)
Child B reacts, retaliating in some way (taking the toy, hitting them, yelling, etc)
Child A thinks that Child B shouldn’t do what they just did (they should ask, they shouldn’t hit, they’re so mean, etc)
Child A reacts, retaliating in some way
Parent thinks the children shouldn’t do that (they know better, they should share, they could be kind, etc)
Parent reacts, retaliating in some way
Do you see what is happening here?
Everyone is doing the same thing.
It is pattern of behavior that involves blaming another person for your own behavior.
Everyone is thinking that other people should behave differently, and then they feel justified in reacting.
EVEN THE PARENT.
So how do we stop this pattern? There are three steps that will help you minimize sibling rivalry:
Step 1: Believe that your kids should fight
If you think that your kids shouldn’t fight, you are setting yourself up for misery because THEY WILL FIGHT.
This is where coaching can have a huge impact. Changing beliefs about kids fighting is not easy work, but it is powerful.
Parents need to believe that it is ok for their kids to fight. In fact, they SHOULD fight.
How do I know?
Because they ARE fighting.
What if fighting is not a problem? What if it is how our kids learn and grow?
It is possible that kids grow the most through mistakes, correction, and trying again.
When you believe this, you will show up differently, and that will have a huge impact.
Instead of angry and yelling, you’ll be calm and collected.
Try it and see what changes!
Step 2: Do not be the judge
Often when kids fight, parents try to hear the story, find out what happened, and make a judgement call about who “started it.”
I literally do not care who started it.
It has no bearing on what I am going to do.
In fact, I often start talking to the kid that DIDN’T start it first.
This is because I start with the child who has the highest energy level… meaning whoever is the angriest. Often that is not the one who started it.
In my opinion, it doesn’t matter who started it.
Do you want to know why?
Because other people are allowed to do wrong.
READ THAT AGAIN: Other people are allowed to do wrong.
When we pretend that other people should always share, always be kind, never take things from us, and never hurt us, we set ourselves up for failure because guess what?
PEOPLE ARE NOT PERFECT.
Humans are not supposed to behave all the time.
If you always discipline the kid that “started it” first (Child B), you teach the kid that reacted (Child A) that they were justified in their reaction. And since all humans they ever meet will be imperfect, that sets them up for a lifetime of reacting.
Step two is so important, because it helps stop the cycle of reaction.
You can stop the cycle by teaching the one who reacted LAST.
It really doesn’t matter who started it.
It matters that everyone understand that THEY have power.
I want to teach them that they don’t have to react because someone else misbehaves.
Which leads me to the next step…
Step 3: Teach the why
I try to help my kids understand WHY the fight happened.
They think it happened because the other kid took their toy, or called them a name, or hit them, or whatever else happened.
It happened because of what they were thinking.
To illustrate this for them, I seek to help them understand 5 things:
What they did wrong
Why they reacted that way
What they really believe
What they could have done
How they can make it right
Once they can see those five things, their attitude shifts and they choose kindness on their own.
Once a child sees how powerful they truly are, they choose kindness most of the time.
The reason they were choosing rivalry before, is because they felt powerless.
They were being a victim to their siblings behavior.
When they have their power back, things start to change.
It is transformative.
I will post in detail about this last step next week, so stay tuned!
P.S. If you missed it, read about 10 Keys to Elevating Your Homeschool here.
P.S.S. Even though I often start with talking to Child A, I do talk to both children. But I don't let them argue their case against the other, or tell me how wrong the other is and how right they are. I keep them focused on what THEY did. Not what their sibling did.