– by Shirley King
Bill Cosby once said, “You aren’t really a parent until you’ve had your second child.” Parents of one child won’t really understand this. Parents of two or more children will relate to this statement immediately. He was referring to the seemingly constant bickering and fighting between brothers and sisters. Kids fighting is the #2 parent complaint, a close second only to #1 – power struggles.
Having more than one child can provide opportunities for them to learn many things. They are learning how to share, how to be a friend, how to love and get along with others, and how to cooperate among themselves in relation to their brothers and sisters. There are many positive aspects to family life with more than one child, although many parents would say, “Not in my family!”
This continual fighting between siblings is one of the major frustrations parents have. They feel that nothing they are doing is working. Parents’ typical reactions to fighting include: screaming “Shut-up! You’re driving me crazy!” taking sides, threats, accusations, dismissing negative feeling, and solving children’s problems for them. All of these reactions only add fuel to the fire.
Instead of reacting to the fighting, parents can choose to be pro-active. They can stay out of the fights in a nonjudgmental way. Children need to be able to settle things for themselves. Parents can teach negotiation skills later during a calm period. Teach your child to say “I’ll give you these blocks for those.” This will help them learn win-win skills that will be there when they are needed now and useful in the future.
Another thing parents can do is show confidence that their children will work things out. “I see two children and one doll, and I know you two can work things out together so both of you are happy.” Believe it and walk out of the room. You’ll be surprised.
Or, the parent can get down on the children’s level and lovingly put a hand out. They will give you the toy. Carol DeVeny, a local daycare owner, was skeptical at first. However, she reported that the two toddlers stopped the fight, gave her the toy, and said “We share, Mommy.” Carol said it brought tears to her eyes to see this.
And finally, parents need to remember to affirm and accept feeling. All feelings are O.K., but not all actions are. A parent can say, “You felt very angry at your sister because she broke your truck. You can tell her with words, not hitting.” Keep in mind that the bad feelings need to come out before we can get to the good feelings.
When parents react to hostility with hostility, they are unwittingly promoting sibling fighting and sibling rivalry. Future generations will need the skills of negotiation and cooperation in their businesses and personal relationships. Parents can begin now to teach their children these important skills. Think about what an incredible difference this can make in their lives!
Shirley King is a Boise Family Magazine Columnist & Redirecting Children’s Behavior instructor.
Copyright © 1995 Boise Idaho by Shirley King – All Rights Reserved