When your kids fight it can drive you completely crazy. Of course when you separate them and they beg to play together again, it makes the whole situation more baffling. You are not alone in this. Most parents report kids fighting as the parenting issue that bothers them the most. They often feel at a loss in terms of how to prevent it. You may be wondering whether you should let your kids work out their own battles, as many experts advise. It’s true that intervening as the judge actually causes more fighting. It’s almost impossible to figure out who started a conflict, and which provocations led to which retaliations. If you take sides, you increase the resentments.

Preventing Kids’ Fighting:

  • Don’t ever compare your kids-to each other or to any other child.
  • Give lots of attention-kids who feel love and accepted for who they are will be less likely to fight. I have seen sibling rivalry dramatically decrease in most households where parents commit to “special time” with each child.
  • Intervene to keep kids occupied before they get bored and a fight erupts. Give attention BEFORE they fight.
  • Make sure you kids get enough personal space-kids should not have to share everything, or even most things. If they share a room, get creative and find ways to define two separate spaces whether its setting up furniture in a unique way or using special artistic materials to create a line down the middle.
  • Don’t give your older child responsibility for the younger one-don’t make her “watch” him or play with him. Siblings reminding each other of family rules is great but it is the parents’ job to be in charge and enforce them.
  • Teach your kids basic negotiation and problem-solving skills-guided by the concept of win/win. Taking turns, dividing a treat, trading, sweetening the deal (“We play your game first and then my game for longer”).
  • Enforce standards of respect in your home: “We don’t call people names or tolerate mean behavior in this house. We treat each other with respect”. Set up an expectation that if anyone forgets and calls a name or is disrespectful (this includes adults), they need to “repair” the damage they have done to that relationship. The “repair” can be anything such as doing a favor, rebuilding the tower they knocked over or just making a card. This doesn’t mean your kids can’t disagree. It just means they is always a wat to stay respectful, even if we are angry.
  • Help them be a team. Look for opportunities to reward teamwork between siblings. Try setting up a “cooperation jar” and put a coin in it every time you observe the kids being nice to each other, helpful and playing without fighting. Take one coin out whenever the kids fight. If they express feelings in an appropriate, respectful way, they gain coins, especially since that is so hard for kids. The kids decide together how to spend the money.
  • Empathize with your kids feelings about each other, but set definite limits on their actions. Kid are entitled to their feelings. Even kids should be held responsible for what they do with their feelings. “When you brother messes with your things you get angry. You can tell him how it makes you feel. We do not hit.”
  • Teach both kids healthy self-management techniques, which can be a challenge. Most of us never learned to regulate our emotions as kids. Some effective techniques include: deep breathing, counting backwards from 10, listening to music.
  • Labeling emotions is the first step in managing it. As you go through daily life, notice your kids emotions and comment non-judgmentally on them. Acknowledge their feelings and they will learn to do the same.
  • Brainstorm with your kids on how to diffuse anger in others to resolve conflicts peacefully-Acknowledge their point of view, express needs without attacking, stay respectful, do not bring up past conflicts.
  • Work to create an atmosphere of appreciation in your house-Every night at dinner have each person find at least one specific thing they appreciate about someone else.
  • Remember they are kids. Its important not to to permit bad behavior towards other, but that doesn’t mean that you don’t offer understanding and the confidence that your child will learn. All kids get mad at their siblings sometimes and as they grow older it will become easier for them to use self control when they are angry.

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