There is no doubt that kids yelling at each other and fighting can be a big cause of anxiety and stress for parents. What are we to do? As with any mis-behavior, there is a root of the problem that needs to be addressed. Does one child feel the other is favored? Is one child simply just being selfish? Is there different expectations put on different kids? Or are the same expectations put on two different aged kids? All of these are probably true. Is this episode 124, we talk about reducing conflict between kids.
Alan, did you have a lot of sibling rivalry in your house growing up?
When we have more than one child, we think we are treating them the same but that’s nearly impossible. When it was only one, they simply got more attention than when the second one came along. Then if there is three, the attention gets even further reduced.
What about expectations with age? I know that we may start implementing something with our children?> Let’s say some responsibilities around the house? When my son was 2 years younger (the same age as my daughter), he may not have had to do things like that.
My purpose with all of this is showing that while multiple children grow up in the same environment, it may be very difficult to actually treat them equal, for their age. Also gender differences may come into play. While not fair or right, it can easily happen when you are not mindful of it. You may allow your son to do something that you don’t allow your daughter to do.
So what are some ways we can reduce conflict:
1) Have them make friends before birth – Let the older child be a part of the pregnancy and get familiar with the unborn baby, preparing for the role of big sister or big brother. Seeing pictures, feeling the tummy, etc.
2) Have the older child feel important – give them jobs, let them be involved in the process of opening gifts. Even possibly give them a present when the baby comes home. My wife did this with great success.
3) Stress the importance of the family – “We are a team”, “”we work together, “we help each other”. These are words that should be consistently hear in your house.
4) Establish rules of the house – Before you can enforce rules, they must know what the rules are. For example, “we must respect each other at all times”. This may mean no hitting, kicking, or even yelling. If yelling is a rule, be sure it’s a rule you are not breaking either.
5) Never compare your children in front of them – Saying how one is better or worse at something is not helpful. “You know your brother never does that” is not a statement that should ever be said.
6) Allow them to solve their own disagreements – If nobody is getting hurt, can you allow them to solve it? If one of my children comes to me complaining about the other, I simply ask, “What did you brother/sister/say when you told them this?” or “Did you talk to your brother/sister about this? Did you ask them nicely?” This is typically followed up with “I have complete confidence that you guys can work this out and find a solution that works for both of you”.
7) Make all children your favorite – My mother was great at this. Each child thought they were her favorite
8) Be empathetic and listen – Be sure to listen to your kids and hear about how they feel. By being empathetic, you may get the opportunity to learn about what is troubling them and figure out a way to fix it.