Photo by: Joyseph

Six Suggestions to Stop Sibling Squabbles

Photo by: Joyseph

Any mom with two or more children has seen sibling squabbles—from the toy snatching of toddlers to the bickering of older kids. And even though these interactions between sisters and brothers are inevitable, they can sometimes be hard to deal with. Here are six suggestions to help:

1. Get involved. Rather than yelling at your kids to stop fighting, kneel down and talk with them about why they’re arguing. Help them to learn to problem solve. Did one of them snatch a toy from the other? Teach that child to learn to ask for the toy or wait his or her turn. Or maybe the other child needs to learn to share more. Talking about what is going on can help them to consider how the other person is feeling. Many times, the squabbles kids get into can be excellent opportunities for character building.

2. Create space. Sometimes, especially if your kids are really young, talking about it may not be the best approach. In this case, separate them when they’re fighting. You can still take the opportunity to tell them things like they shouldn’t be snatching, but after you do, place them in separate areas for a while. Sometimes, giving them space is all it takes to cool things down.

3. Get positive. If your kids are fighting, have them stop and say something nice to each other. For young toddlers, this may mean a simple “I love you”. For kids ages three and up, this could mean giving each other a compliment. You can also have them make each other a card or a picture. Even though they might start out through scrunched-up faces and frowns, by the time they’re done saying or writing something nice about each other, you’ll be amazed at the smiles that will sneak out. Compliments can go a long way in diffusing a fight.

4. Get loving. Tell your kids if they don’t stop fighting, they’re going to have to give each other a big hug. And if they don’t stop, have them do it. This can result in your kids getting silly and laughing—and pretty soon, they won’t be fighting at all.

5. Put them to work. Have your kids pick up toys or help clean a room. It will take their minds off of arguing and help them to be productive. By the time they are done working, they will likely forget about being mad at each other and they’ll learn a little about teamwork in the process.

6. Don’t listen to tattling. Doing so can encourage more tattling and pit your kids against each other. When they come to you tattling, teach them to try to work it out themselves before getting involved. Encourage them to stick up for each other, rather than set out to get each other in trouble. As your kids get older, a good guideline might be: unless it’s is an emergency or a safety issue, they can’t tattle about it. The next time your kids are squabbling, take heart. If one approach doesn’t work the first time, try another. And remember there will be many moments of sweetness in between all the bickering.

Genny lives in California with her husband and their two kids, where she balances motherhood with writing, and loves both. Her work has been published in magazines and on Web sites, and she writes regularly for Genny reviews books for the Sacramento Book Review and is an Assistant Regional Advisor for the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators.

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We are already trying to curb tattling in our 5 year old by telling her only to come tell us that her brother is "in trouble" if he is doing something that could hurt him or ruin things.

Dear recovering Procrastinator,
As a parent educator I'm often asked what I suggest parents do about tattling. See if this works. Tell her it's good that she can see the difference between right and wrong...

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