Finding your kids in the thick of a physical altercation–punching, biting, slapping, or even worse was scary stuff for everyone involved–children and parents alike. But the truth is, this behavior is common, especially in younger children who don’t have more appropriate conflict resolution skills.
What can you do to reduce sibling fights? Model empathy, personal boundaries and healthy conflict resolution. Coach children during conflicts (when needed). Stepping out of a judge role and taking on a more neutral, facilitator role. Below are the five essential guidelines to stop sibling fights.
1. Step in and limit all behaviors that are hurtful. (You might need to physically stand in their way) Use calm and confident words.
It might sound like “I’m standing here, and I will not let you hurt each other.”
2. Take time to listen and validate feelings. Taking turns as needed to speak to each child and remembering that coaching role explained above. Think along the lines of “You two are having a hard time—I wonder what we can do,” instead of “He or she is the problem.”
3. Focus on understanding needs and boundaries. Avoid criticizing the behavior that was out of line. Children are quite aware that hitting and hurting a sibling is wrong.
4. Use respectful communication and discipline with the intent to teach. Focusing on solutions and agreements instead of punishments. This actively strengthens connection, a sense of cooperation, capability and well-being.
5. Don’t be afraid to suggest that everyone take some time to calm down. Stay by your children but don’t get into problem solving mode until tears have passed and everyone seems ready to listen.
Coach Benjamin Mizrahi. Educator. Learning Specialist. Family Coach. Father. Husband.
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