Siblings Without Rivalry: Fighting

Sibling fights. They happen! Probably daily. But we are learning what to do about them. I've been reading the helpful book Siblings Without Rivalry. Combined with a couple things we've decided as a family, here is a summary of what has been working for us lately:

#1. Having a zero tolerance policy -- No Hitting No Pushing No Grabbing. Immediate consequence that fits the crime. Example: Kids are playing at playground and pushing each other out of the way for a turn at the steering wheel. I say "no pushing" and remove my child from the situation. Apologies may be necessary.

Lately Ezra has been pushing his brother out of the way (when they are both coveting my lap) -- I just say "no pushing" and move them so they aren't in each others' space (but still "getting" mommy). LOL

It definitely takes an observant eye. I try to catch all the offenses and stop them immediately. Even getting away with a hit one time would make things difficult for reasons of consistency. "Mom didn't say no that time...hmmmm" Usually Ezra's "siren" will go off if I'm not watching and I can guess what just took place. At which time I will say "no hitting" and give attention to the injured party (see below).

No grabbing is important to me too. We TRADE toys or wait until the other person is through playing with the desired item. Using words to ask politely will come as Ezra gets more verbal. I've discussed with Peter the idea of "do unto others what you would have them do to you". This seems to be making sense to him. We'll keep working on that.

#2. Treat your brother like you would treat a friend. Sure, siblings are together a lot. Yes, they may have fun "play-fighting". But I firmly believe siblings should not be allowed to abuse each other. Maybe we can't force friendship, but we can stop hurt. I don't want to see my child get in the habit of treating his brother roughly and then begin treating friends with the same roughness. Nope. Treat your brother and friends alike, with the same gentleness and politeness. 

#3. As a parent, use YOUR words. =) Model the correct way to say things. Please. Thank you. Would you like? And when children are having trouble, give them ideas of things they might say to resolve problems: "Could I play with that when you're done?" or "I would like a turn." How about "Would YOU like to play with this when I'm done?" =)

#4. Pay more attention to the "Victim" rather than the attention-seeking aggressor. Comfort the child who is hurting and say something like, "Peter should not have done that. It was unkind and it hurt."
Here's an example from the book:

"Gimme that toy!" "No! OW, she bit me!"
"Bit you?! Let me see. Oh my, it's all red. That must hurt." 
"People are not for biting. Your sister needs to learn to ask for what she wants with words. Even when she is angry." 
"Come, let's put some ice on your arm."

The idea is that the aggressor will get so little attention from these actions (besides subtly being told their actions were not OK) that they will refrain from doing it FOR ATTENTION.

#5. TEACH children how to solve their own disputes.

"Start by acknowledging their feelings. Listen to each child describe the problem (if they are both verbal). Show appreciation for the difficulty of the problem. Express faith in THEIR ABILITY TO WORK IT OUT. Leave the room."

An example, using two preschool aged children (ages 5 and 3 perhaps):

"Boy, you two sound angry at each other!" 
"Yeah, she grabbed my zebra, and I was making a zoo! I wanted to play with it too!" 
"So it was your idea to build a zoo, and you wanted to do it by yourself." 
"That's right!" 
"But when you saw him playing, you wanted to play too." 
"I see. This is tough! Two children wanting to use the same toys at the same time." ;) 
"I have confidence that if you two put your heads together, you'll come up with a solution that feels fair to each of you." 
"While you're working on it, I'll be reading the paper."

I firmly believe in teaching children to solve their own problems. It may take time. You may feel like the routine is getting really old. It seems childish and they just aren't catching on! I believe the rewards will pay off big time when they are school-age and able to sort out disagreements and solve problems fairly without the help of an adult. Important stuff. You'll have independent thinkers who are looking out for the best interest of everyone!

#6. STOP dangerous situations. Ask, "Is this a play fight or a real fight?" Remind, "Play fighting is by mutual consent only. If it's not fun for both, it's time to stop." Stand your ground, "You may be playing, but it's too rough for me. You need to find another activity."

Enough to think about for a few days?? ;) Hope it helps.