Whenever possible, don't get involved. Step in only if there's a danger of physical harm. If you always intervene, you risk creating other problems. The kids may start expecting your help and wait for you to come to the rescue rather than learning to work out the problems on their own. There's also the risk that you — inadvertently — make it appear to one child that another is always being "protected," which could foster even more resentment. By the same token, rescued kids may feel that they can get away with more because they're always being "saved" by a parent.
Some disagreements are easier than others for kids to end. When sibling fighting escalates to the point where you can no longer stay out of it, here are some tips for resolving the conflict:
Separate. Take your kids out of the ring and let them cool down in their own corners (their rooms). Sometimes all kids need is a little space and time away from each other.
Teach negotiation and compromise. Show your kids how to resolve disputes in a way that satisfies both siblings involved. First, ask them to stop yelling and start communicating. Give each child a chance to voice his or her side of the story. Listen, but don't be judgmental. Try to clarify the problem ("It sounds like you're really upset with your brother for taking your favorite video game"), and ask your kids to find a solution that works for everyone involved. If they can't come up with any ideas for resolving the issue, you introduce a solution. For example, if the kids are fighting over a new game, write up a schedule that gives each child a set amount of time to play with the game.
Enforce rules. Make sure all of your kids abide by the same rules, which should include no hitting, name-calling, or damaging each other's property. Let your kids have a say in how the rules are established and enforced. For example, they may decide that the punishment for hitting is losing their TV privileges for one night. Letting your kids play a role in the decision-making process will make them feel like they have at least a little bit of control over their own lives. When your kids follow the rules, praise them for it.
Don’t make comparisons. Each child feels he is unique and rightly so-he is unique, and he resents being evaluated only in relation to someone else. Instead of comparison, each child in the family should be given his own goals and levels of expectation that relate only to him.
Don't make everything equal. There is no such thing as perfect equality in a family. An older child will inevitably be allowed to do some things her younger siblings can't. Instead of trying to make your kids equals, treat each child as a unique and special individual.
Give kids the rights to their own possessions. Sharing is important, but children shouldn't be forced to share everything. All of your children should have something special that is completely their own.
Hold family meetings. Get together with the entire family once a week to hash out any issues. Give every family member a chance to air his or her grievances, and come up with solutions together.
Give each child separate attention. It can be hard to spend time alone with each child, especially when you have a large family, but one of the reasons why siblings resent each other is that they feel they aren't getting enough of your attention. To let your kids know that you value every one of them, make one-on-one time for each child. Carve out special days where you take your daughter shopping or your son to the movies -- just the two of you. Even 10 to 15 minutes of your attention each day can make your child feel special.
When Sibling Fighting Gets Out of Control
It's completely normal for siblings to fight from time to time. But when fighting escalates to the point where one child is becoming emotionally or physically victimized, it needs to stop. Repeated hitting, biting, or "torturing" behaviors (for example, incessant tickling, teasing, or belittling) are forms of sibling abuse, and justification for you to step in. If you can't stop the violence yourself, talk to your child's pediatrician or a mental health provider to get immediate help.
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