Most parents would agree that is it better to teach your children how to resolve their own conflicts than it is to always intervene on their behalf. Yet, teaching your children how to handle sibling rivalries in a positive manner can be extremely challenging especially for young children who may not yet fully understand what you may try to teach them. Some parents find the challenge too great and loose enthusiasm for teaching these important principles while other parents may simply have the problem of not knowing where to start when it comes to helping their children handle sibling rivalries in a positive manner. Below are a few suggestions to get you started or to help you become re-committed to teaching your children these important principles.
Control your emotions – One of the most difficult things for both the parent and the child to remember when a fight breaks out is to control your emotions. Parents will naturally want to stop a conflict by yelling and telling their kids to “cut it out.” Siblings will allow their emotions to cloud their judgment about how the situation should be handled and things can quickly get out of hand (i.e. a quarrel can turn into a fight). Controlling your emotions is no easy task. There are many adults who have yet to master this ability. However serious your struggles in this category may be recommit to your self and your children to be a better example of how you should control your emotions when someone makes you upset.
Teach empathy – Children are not as jaded as adults in the sense that they can pick up on lessons of trust and empathy much more easily than adults can. Children have an innate ability to look outside of themselves. Foster this precious ability in your children by asking them how they think the sibling that they are fighting with feels when they argue. Teaching your child to put himself in their sibling’s shoes is a very positive way to handle sibling rivalries.
Devise a step-by-step method – Children need directions and easy-to-follow instructions to really internalize lessons. Come up with a method that you think is appropriate to use when they have the urge to become angry with their sibling. A method for handling sibling rivalries may start with taking a deep breath and counting to ten. Other steps might include asking the other sibling for their side of the story and making sure never to raise your voice or fist during this conversation. Come up with an acronym to help your children to remember the steps to handling their own sibling troubles.
Find a compromise (give and take) – Compromising to resolve conflicts is a more difficult concept to understand because no one really wants to give up part of their argument. When we feel like we are right our pride takes over and even if we realize that we have acted a little irrationally, it is hard to back down from our stance. Sound familiar? Many adults do this all the time when debating over an issue. Children need to be taught not only the meaning of the word compromise but how they can find a compromise and still feel happy that their voice was heard. Remember that you cannot compromise by taking; you have to give a little as well.
Be patient and keep trying – Sibling rivalries can sometimes become very nasty. For whatever reason some siblings will find ways to get under each other’s skin and despite all of your efforts to teach them a better way of handling their disputes, nothing seems to work. Sibling rivalries are complicated and in many cases involve issues that may be more involved than what you see on the surface. Sometimes the best option will be to find professional help for your children. For others simply sticking to your parenting tactics even through the hard times will eventually pay off.