What to do when siblings fight?

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My 1 y/o sometimes hits his 3 y/o sister. Not because he sees it at home (because we do not hit here), but because he likes exploring, and he figured he gets a wonderful reaction out of her this way, complete with screaming and tears. When he just started doing that she kept warning me that when he would hit her, she would hit him back. That always made me feel very happy for my decision to become a positive parent; if a child who is not hit makes this connection, then what can we expect from kids who are hit/spanked/pinched by their parents on a regular basis? They would assume it is the norm, and they would mirror the same behavior in their own young lives.

I also agree with not taking sides in children’s conflicts. My mom did that, she always took my brother’s side because he was slightly younger than me, and she somehow expected me to be the adult in our conflicts. And every time he would run and tell on me, I would get punished. And he would run a lot. I wonder if that is the reason me and my brother are not the best friends as adults. I don’t want the same for my kids.

This article from AhaParenting.com is something I wish every parent would read and memorize. Very informative and gives a step-by-step approach to children’s conflicts. Read it, please. Full text here:
http://www.ahaparenting.com/ask-the-doctor-1/how-to-stop-siblings-fighting?A=SearchResult&SearchID=6142674&ObjectID=773721&ObjectType=35

“Preventing Kids’ Fighting:

1. Don’t ever compare your kids to each other or to any other child.

2. Do give lots of individual attention. Kids who feel loved and accepted for who they are will be less likely to fight.

3. Do intervene to keep kids occupied before they get bored and a fight erupts. Give attention BEFORE they fight.

8. Enforce standards of respect in your home: “We don’t call people names or tolerate meanness in this house. We treat each other with respect.” Agree as a family on specific consequences for yelling, name calling, unkind remarks, and other disrespectful behavior. I recommend the “Repair” consequence in which the “disrespector” has to do a favor for the “victim” because it makes clear that the relationship has been damaged and the “disrespector” must take action to repair it. However, this only works when a parent has observed the interaction and can mediate the consequence. It doesn’t usually work for fighting, because both people were involved and it isn’t clearly a case where one person disrespected the other…

Intervening in Fighting

1. Stay Calm. Research shows that one of the most important things parents can do to help kids learn to manage their emotions is to stay calm themselves. Kids need to experience their parents as a “holding environment” — a safe harbor in the storm of their turbulent feelings. If you can stay calm and soothe your children, they will eventually learn to stay calm themselves, which is the first step in learning to manage their feelings.

2. Don’t take sides or worry about who started the fight. Treat them the same when you intervene.
8. Once everyone is calm, call the kids together. Tell them that they’ve already lost a coin from the cooperation jar by fighting, but you will need to take another coin out of the jar unless they can talk civilly and agree on how they will avoid a fight next time. Encourage them to take turns listening to each other’s feelings and suggestions. Let them talk and work it out, and then come to you with a description of what happened (“We wanted to play different games”) and a plan for what they will do differently next time (“We will flip a coin” or “We’ll play each game for half an hour.”) Teach empathy by asking each child how he thinks his sibling felt during the fight. Give them hugs if they actually work it out together. If they can’t, help them get to a resolution.”

Photo by Sharon Mollerus (Flickr)

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