Parents have lots of different ways to handle the inevitable fights that occur between brothers and sisters. Some comfort the wounded and reprimand the aggressor. Others think kids should learn to resolve conflicts on their own. The tips here may help you decide whether it’s time to referee—or let the kids manage the situation.
- Think safety first. As the adult-in-charge, you have the absolute responsibility to make sure none of the kids gets injured.
- Teach your children to use words—not hands and fists—to settle arguments, which isn’t easy when younger kids fight for space in the back seat of the car or older ones vie to ride shotgun. Yet no matter how repetitive it is for you or for them, they need to be continually reminded to use words to resolve conflicts.
- Kids may use mean words in the heat of the moment, so they also need to learn the difference between provocative, fighting words and calm, solution-oriented ones. Make sure you, too, use conflict resolution-oriented words in all your conversations so that your kids can follow your good example.
- Encourage your kids to describe how they feel when conflicts surface. Let them know it’s okay to say, “I feel frustrated when you keep interrupting me,” or “You can borrow this book when I’m done with it,” or “I feel sad when you and Ava won’t play with me.”
- Remain impartial. Help your kids understand that you do not take sides or favor one child over another in routine sibling squabbles (unless a child’s safety is at stake). Your goal is to give them a template for eventually resolving their own conflicts.
- Support the peacekeeping process instead of delivering judgment. Make sure all parties have a chance to speak and that they earnestly listen to each other. Sometimes it’s hard to relinquish the role of judge and jury, but just remember: the goal of peacekeeping activities is to help kids learn to resolve skirmishes on their own.