Last Sunday I read an interesting article in Parade magazine about siblings. Among other things, it said that siblings fight on average eight times an hour.
My kids aren’t nearly that irascible, but their fighting does sometimes reach a fever pitch. Just recently, hubby and I held a family meeting to talk about this issue. For a few weeks, we had both felt stressed by too much “sniping” as I call it (when a person insults another out of the blue for no real reason), grouchiness and moodiness and bickering. Something had to give.
We came up with 1) a list of behaviors we wanted to extinguish, 2) the feeling we wanted to enjoy in our home instead, and 3) consequences for the problem behavior. We also had the kids read a scripture about each.
Not all of the consequences are punishments. For instance, the penalty for moodiness and grumpy behavior is running around the house 3 times (weather permitting), or dropping to the floor and doing 20 pushups.
The consequence for whining/complaining? Making a gratitude list.
Name-calling? The offender must write down 3 of the other person’s positive qualities. This is the one we’ve had to enforce most often, incidentally.
I’ve read that studies indicate that frequent, mild consequences are more effective and far less stressful to children and parents. Some of these things were just bad habits the kids had gotten into. It didn’t require severe punishments, just a reminder. But what I like about our “system” is that we as the parents don’t have to think of what to do in each situation. We have already discussed the penalties for these crimes (the kids helped us create the list, by the way), so there’s no decision fatigue. Which is the major reason parents feel tired by discipline.
The Parents article said that children whose parents don’t help them navigate sibling issues may resort to coercive and manipulative tactics, which habits they will carry into adulthood in their relationships with spouses and co-workers.
I know a lot of parents who say that sibs just need to “work it out” on their own, and I agree… sometimes, and to a certain point. “Playground politics” and all that.
But some kids can easily overreact and become violently angry (either physically or with words) with another sibling. They can do damage to their relationship in seconds that’s very hard to repair. Helping kids work through a conflict isn’t the same as playing referee, it’s reminding them of what’s unacceptable (screaming, abusive speech, violence) so they can compromise and reach consensus. Kids are still learning how to behave appropriately, and they need guidance in this area. We read Proverbs a lot, because it’s full of wisdom about relationships.
The other morning, the girls started fighting before they even left their beds and came out to breakfast. I had not had my coffee yet, and did NOT want to hear arguing. So after breakfast I sat them down with a huge stack of math worksheets. I told them that since they had nothing better to do than argue, they obviously needed ME to help them keep busy.
There’s always that.
How do you handle it when your kids argue? What’s your philosophy on siblings and fighting?