When Kids Bicker, Argue…How to Address Sibling Fights!

We’re in the home stretch of summer vacation. It’s very hot (very, very hot!) so we’re spending a lot of time indoors. At times the kids play like angels. Their creativity is inspiring. Their music and shows are lovely. Other times? They argue and are at each other’s throats. Nasty words come out. Tears run like Niagara Falls. What do we do to help alleviate that sibling bickering?

I notice that around this time of the summer (when we’re not doing school, temperatures are hot, the kids are tired from camp), I really, really need to spend quality time with each of the kids individually. I try to snuggle up and listen to each one of them at some point during the day. Sometimes I sit by one of the kids without saying anything at all (especially when they are very upset) with a gentle hand on their leg or back. I give out lots of hugs too!

When things are starting to escalate, I often step in and offer a new activity:

  • baking tends to draw in one or two of the kids… we’ve made a really tasty peach cobbler, cookies and an apple cobbler lately.
  • pull out a board game and play with anyone who’s interested.
  • pull out the art supplies
  • have a lego contest
  • do a creative thinking activity (click for more ideas)… have the kids make a tall tower with index cards and paper clips or with a pack of sticky notes,  create a tall tower with straws and straight pins, challenge the kids to create a safe container or parachute for an egg drop then drop the raw egg from a tree or high place
  • read a book aloud

I also pull out my old standbys… Siblings Without Rivalry and How to Talk So Kids Will Listen and Listen so Kids Will Talk. Both these books are by Adele Faber and Elaine Mazlish. They remind ME to be a good listener to all of the kids, to acknowledge and listen to them air their feelings and grievances (and to keep my emotions out of it!) These books remind me to make sure I’m not insisting on good feelings between the kids… listen to and allow for bad feelings some of the time. Really be wary and careful of not comparing the kids to each other (or to their friends). On a similar note, make sure I don’t lock any of the kids into a certain role (shy, careless, clingy, friendly… or whatever).

Here’s what one of the books suggests about what to do when children fight (from Siblings Without Rivalry, p. 134):

  • acknowledge the children’s anger towards each other. This should help calm them.
  • listen to both sides with respect
  • show appreciation for the difficulty of the problem
  • express faith in their ability to work out a mutually agreeable solution.
  • leave the room

If it’s a doozy of an argument that has seriously escalated, here were some of the suggestions (page 144):

  • Inquire — is this a play fight or a real fight.
  • Let the kids know — play fighting is by mutual consent only
  • Respect your feelings — “You may be fighting, but it’s too rough for me, you need to find another activity.”
  • Describe what you see — I see two kids who are very angry and about to hurt each other (or really hurt each other’s heart with their words…)
  • Separate the children — It’s not safe to be together. Let’s have a cooling off period. Quick, everyone to their rooms.

Anyway, these are just some of the amazing tips I got from these books! I highly recommend them to anyone else who’s kids argue and fight! And if you have any good tips, I’d love to hear from you here or over at my Homeschool Den Facebook page!!

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