“Let the punishment fit the crime.” One of my favorite movies of all time is the original Parent Trap. My favorite scenes in that movie are the bickering between the sisters- before they find out that they are, in fact, sisters. Their biggest fight leads the camp counselor to punish them for their actions, and her punishment is perfect- she forces them to spend more time together.
“You’ll punish yourselves far better than I ever could.”
Notice how their relationship changes once they are forced to spend time together and work together. They go from being ruthless, to partnering to accomplish their goal. This has always stuck with me. These two girls literally pulled each other’s hair out, but a common goal forces them together and strengthens their relationship by leaps and bounds.
Sibling rivalry isn’t something new and seems to be natural in the course of family dynamics, but over the last few years, the fighting has gotten out of control in my house. Every few minutes I hear, “Stooooppppp it!! I’m telling Mommy! Mommy!” or “Mommy! So-and-So just [insert something really annoying]!”
I just about explode.
It’s gotten to the point where my ears have become super sensitive to the whiny voices and I’m just so sick of the fighting and yelling that sometimes I feel like I’m ready to get up and walk out. They’re getting older, and my solving their every tiff has become ineffective.
An oversized t-shirt worn together won’t solve their problems, either.
So I searched, found, and tried a few effective ways to prevent siblings from fighting and/or deal with it once the fighting has already happened. I’ve learned that getting them to work together and solve their problems on their own is the best course of action.
But how do you go about doing that in actionable steps? Well, here are:
10 Ways to Get Siblings to Stop Fighting
Before They Fight
Before the screaming and yelling matches commence, here are a few ways to get them to get along and prevent blow-ups from happening.
Lack of communication is what tends to start arguments. Getting children to communicate effectively to each other, and to you, can have the power to lessen or eliminate many disagreements. Tell children that they need to voice, or put into words what they want or need from one another. Grunting, yelling, and screaming are not effective forms of communication. Just sayin’.
Respecting Each Other
Teaching kids to respect each other, i.e. no name calling, hitting, or breaking one another’s possessions is important. Asking them to be mindful of one another or to consider each other’s feelings and needs before they act can help them to get along, too. They should be treating others as they wish to be treated.
Dividing Chores into Two Parts
Nothing brings people together more than teamwork. Splitting their chores into two parts and giving each kid a part encourages it. For example, one child has to pull the linens off the beds while the other has the job of bringing them into the laundry room. Making it a game helps them to have fun with it, too. Set a timer and see how fast they can work together to make it happen. Reward their team efforts at the end.
Whenever we have to divide something between them, my husband has one child do the tearing, cutting, or sectioning off, and the other child gets to be the first to choose which one he/she wants. This helps them to be fair and work together. It also helps to stop the fights on who got the bigger portion.
Every now and then, I will have the kids work together to encourage them to get along. One way I do this is to give them some sort of shared responsibility. This might include having them work together on a project where the responsibility is split. For example, have them make lunch for themselves with each child choosing one part of the meal to make. The finished product is something they worked on separately that, when brought together, is better. They’ll start to realize that they need each other.
After They’ve Already Fought
Siblings are going to fight from time to time. There is no all-encompassing solution to it. Our goal, as parents, is to teach them effective problem-solving skills and to try and avoid fights from happening. But when it does happen (because it will from time to time), here’s what you can do:
Get the FULL Story
Get the whole story before you referee. Sometimes our kids have a way of surprising us by acting out of character, and every situation is different, so make sure you get the FULL story before passing judgment. Listen to both sides and show them that what everyone has to say is important. They’ll cool down by just being able to tell their side.
Let Them Work It Out
Have them openly communicate to each other about what happened and why it made them angry, while you take on the role of mediator- nothing more. Let each child voice their side and their feelings -without interruption- one at a time, and help them to come to a compromise. It’s their problem, and letting THEM come to a solution on their own is the best way to go about it. Yes, this is the longer way to do it. It’s definitely not time efficient, BUT with time and practice, they will eventually be able to do this on their own- without coming to you, and that is pricesless.
Don’t Take Sides
They need to work their differences out themselves. Guide the discussion and encourage apologies on both sides, discuss how things could have been done differently, but never take sides. This will just add to sibling rivalry and cause more fights in the future.
Time Outs From Each Other
While being forced to work together can be effective most of the time, sometimes (and this is true for adults, too), people just need some time away from each other. Chances are your kids spend A LOT of time together and may need a break. Have them work on things separately or go into different rooms to cool off. Absence makes the heart grow fonder. I’ve noticed that whenever we have them away from each other for an extended amount of time, they ask about one another and are happy to be reunited when the time comes.
Highlight the Positive
Even after they’ve fought, it’s best to highlight the positives so that they can look at each other in a positive light. Point out what good things they’ve done for each other. Need an example? You might say things like, “Remember the other day when So-and-So let you play with [insert toy name] first? And then you were nice to share it back? Let’s do that again.” or “Remember when you guys had fun playing that board game together the other day? Let’s try that again. That was fun.” Always being positive or pointing out the positive will change the way they think. You might even suggest an activity that you know they love doing together- this takes away the negative and introduces a positive experience.Sick of your #kids fighting? Find out how to get them to stop. Check it out: Click To Tweet
As I mentioned before, there is no definitive solution that will guarantee that siblings won’t fight. BUT if you follow the steps above, you can make it easier on everyone while teaching your children some great problem-solving skills.
What effective methods have you used to get your kids to stop fighting? Let me know in the comments below.