Sibling Squabbles

13 Oct

Letterbalm Two Kids ArguingDear LetterBalm: I have two young children who fight all the time. They drive me and their father absolutely crazy with their bickering, arguing, yelling and back-and-forth. (“Is To!” “Is Not!” can go on indefinitely until one of us steps in.) We have established house rules and what we think are fair consequences, but the bickering still doesn’t stop. What can we say to these two imps to make them stop, at least for awhile?

–Tearing Our Hair Out

Aw, c’mon. You’re never going to eradicate sibling squabbling. This is so ingrained in families, that oftentimes the memories of fighting are forgotten by the kids and remembered not so fondly by the parents. Ms. L.B. hopes your arsenal of consequences includes appropriate use of timeouts, including placing them in designated timeout spots in different rooms, not their bedrooms, where they can’t see each other. Presumably, too, you are depriving them of a favored toy (not a comfort toy for sleeping, however) or an anticipated outing. You and their dad also might sit down with them when things are calm and they aren’t misbehaving and offer this:

Adam and Eva, we’ve had problems with your squabbling, and it isn’t nice or fun. We know that sometimes it is hard to keep angry words to yourself. Things get out of hand, you start yelling at each other, and, before you know it, you’re fighting again and breaking house rules. Timeouts aren’t always the best way to solve the problem. So, we’re going to suggest a couple of new things to do, and we want to know what you think. Here they are:

  • Sometimes when you fight, we’ll stop the argument, and each one of you has to come up with three things you like and admire about your brother or sister. Adam, you are a good skateboarder, for instance. And, Eva, you can throw a ball really well. You have to say things to each other nicely and truly. And, they can’t always be the same three things! An apology isn’t always going to work, either, if you’re not really sorry.
  • Sometimes, we’re going to make you two come up with a solution yourselves. When you’re fighting, you must go into a room together and work out a good solution to the problem. Eva, you can’t make Adam do what you want because you’re older. And, Adam, you can whine and walk away. Both of you have to agree on the answer. It could be not watching a TV show that day that you both like. Or no dessert at dinner. Or not being able to play a video game until tomorrow. You’re going to have to learn to solve problems together.
  • If you’ve broken something that belongs to someone else, you’ll have to make up for it. Maybe with your allowance, maybe with chores, maybe with helping to fix it. Things you do have an impact on other people and you have to respect your family and other people. Saying “I’m sorry” isn’t enough if you’ve really damaged somebody’s property.
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