If you’re a parent of two or more children, you’ll definitely agree that siblings will bicker about anything and everything. Whether it’s about who got the Legos first or someone sitting too close to someone else, the bickering can seem non-stop. We’re sure you still remember the time when you were a child and your own sibling was the most annoying person ever! Dr. Laura Markhan of Aha! Parenting has some helpful insights on how we can help our kids stop bickering with each other.
She has 5 specific steps on what parents should do when their kids are bickering:
Calm yourself –
A parent meltdown when the kids are already having a hard time processing their own feelings will definitely make the situation worse. We need to learn to regulate our own feelings before we help our kids manage theirs.
Describe the problem or situation you see with empathy and without judgement or blame –
Another good term to use in this situation is “sportscasting”. It’s basically narrating what you see happening in a calm and neutral manner.
For example, your two sons want to play with the same fire truck and an entire “I got it first! No, it’s mine!” scenario is already playing out. You can say this – “I hear two kids who want the same toy. This is a tough situation since we only have one fire truck. What can we do about this?” Usually, kids will offer a solution when parents start the conversation. You might hear one of your kids suggest something like this – “Do you want to play with the dump truck instead? I’ll go and get it for you. Then we can take turns.” Though this might take a lot of tries before it actually works, your kids will eventually be able to figure the situation out for themselves when you take the lead.
Set limits on meanness by restating family rules about kindness –
Remind your kids that all feelings are valid but being mean is not an option. This is also a great reminder that parents are the first, and most important, role models of children so we also need to be mindful of the words we use with others. Parents also need to consciously model acts of kindness towards people around them.
Coach each child to express their feelings and needs without attacking each other –
When emotions are high, it’s easy to start attacking the object of your anger, whether verbally or physically. As a parent, you can coach your child to regulate his feelings and actions with our own words. For example, when your son hits your daughter, you can say, “I know you’re really mad at your sister but we don’t hit other people in this family. You can tell her how mad you are, but you can’t hit her. ” This also is a good way of teaching that your child can feel angry but he doesn’t have to act on that anger.
Coach kids to problem solve as necessary –
Coaching, as opposed to controlling, is another important aspect of parenting that Dr. Markhan champions. This makes your child want to cooperate with you, instead of you forcing it on them. With our words, we can nudge them towards the right direction by helping them think of their own solutions to their problems. Lines such as, “What do you think we should do in this situation?” “What will make this work better for you and your brother?”, can set the tone for your kids and help them learn how to problem solve independently.
Yes, these definitely take a lot of time and effort but it pays off in the long run. Raising your children as best as you can is one of the most important, if not the most important, goals a parent should have. Keeping these tips in mind will help you manage the bickering at home and hopefully, avoid it altogether in the future.