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Siblings without rivalry – Chapter 6: When the kids fight

And here we come to the heart of it.

It took a little time? Yes, but before that, he had to understand the dynamics of this brother/sister relationship. And it’s only now when we better understand the previous points that we are equipped to respond well in the event of fighting…

Fights which, in fact, should be less frequent, just because our other changes have encouraged a more harmonious relationship.

Thus, if there is a good relationship between the children, they argue less, and know better how to manage their conflicts.

In general, we’ll try not to intervene in conflicts, and let them develop their own methods of resolution.
There will of course always be cases where our intervention is necessary.
In this case, try the following steps:

1 – Start by acknowledging the children’s anger towards each other. That alone should help calm them.

2 – Listen to each child’s side with respect

3 – Show appreciation for the difficulty of the problem

4 – Express faith in their ability to work out a mutually agreeable solution 

5 – Leave the room


If we get to the point where it’s already past talking, we can take a slightly more interventionist approach, first inquiring: « Are you playing or fighting? », then reminding the rule: « play fighting by mutual consent only », and finally, possibly: « I understand that you play, but it’s too brutal for me. « I wish that you find another activity. »

Sometimes, we have to intervene more strongly because it is already at an advanced level of the fight, for example when one is about to hit the other!

1 – It may seem ridiculous, but start by describing the situation. It helps to get another perspective on what we’re doing…
« I see a boy who is about to hit the other! »
2 – Set the limits
« We don’t hurt each other! »
3 – Separate the children to let them breathe
« I think that you two need a cooling-off period… »

This is already quite a lot of skills to test, and to put in place.

The chapter however does not stop there. In fact, it makes you want to split into several chapters, because there are many situations, and there are lots of good advice here.


So, let’s follow with what I will call the

Part 2: the recurring situation

Ex: « she’s never ready in time to go to school… »

Then, we can start a process of conflict resolution, following these steps:
1 – A meeting between the protagonists. Explain the reasons for the meeting and the discussion rules.
2 – Write the feelings of each, and their recriminations, then read them aloud.
3 – Allow time for each one to respond to what the other has expressed.
4 – Invite everyone to come up with solutions. Write everything without judgment.
5 – Decide on the solutions that are suitable for all.
6 – Follow up

We already tried to implement this method. (In this precise example. Discussing with Oscar-13 years – and Alice – 8 years – about the time of departure for school, the need of each of them, and how one can adapt or not) and of course, it works much better to talk about the problem out of the heat moment. We can make decisions together, and then each one knows what limits are acceptable for the other.

On the other hand, we’ve been very bad on the follow-up. Is this a big deal? I don’t know… If the problem doesn’t arise anymore, one can think that there is no need to go back to it, but I actually think that
– It is a good idea to check if it worked before the same problem comes back, which can be very frustrating!
– If the problem is really solved, it is still worth taking time to note it, congratulate the children, and give them the opportunity to realize that this method of conflict resolution worked!

Note: this method is actually the same as the one seen in the end of the chapter on alternatives to punishment in How to talk so kids will listen…


Part 3: rather than take part…

Again, the children should resolve the issue. It’s darn hard on a daily basis, but it should not be the parent’s decision, otherwise, it is certain that at least one will judge it unfair (sometimes both), and will feel angry and bitter, towards the parent and the other child.

If we are in a situation where we are asked to take part, it is better to state the rule that will allow them to conclude by themselves:
« As I understand it, Thomas, you need pencils for your homework, and you want to finish coloring.
Homework always have priority, but Thomas, if you want to find an arrangement with your sister, you can. »
or: « She’d like to borrow this shirt for her party, but you won’t lend it to her because you fear she’ll damage it. Look, it’s your shirt and your decision, and it’s your choice to talk things out with your sister. »

In practice, I find that it doesn’t work that well… But at least it enables us to give our « decision » simply by reenforcing the rule, and let them understand it, rather than by imposing…


Part 4: Other piece of interest

How do we encourage sharing?
Since according to the previous point, you can’t force the sharing, how can you encourage it?
-putting children in charge of sharing when something is distributed
-highlighting the benefits of sharing
-allowing time for the child to integrate the idea (« He’ll tell you when he’s ready to share » – That works well!)
-showing your appreciation when sharing comes spontaneously
-modeling it!

Discourage tattling
A child telling on the other cannot contribute to them agreeing…
(We are talking here of a small thing that doesn’t impact the other one)
It is better not to encourage it.
« He did that? Tell him to come see me! » is not the right reaction: not only it gives satisfaction to the tale-bearer, but in addition, it implicates him in a role which is not his!
An appropriate response would be rather to go against our instincts, and say:
« I’m not comfortable hearing about what your brother is or isn’t doing… But if you want to tell me about yourself, I’m happy to listen. »

In the case where we have to vote, validate the frustration
Sometimes, when the group can’t decide, we proceed to a vote. No problem here, but it can be a good idea to point out to all: « Okay, so this is the decision, but we all know that one of us feels disappointed because he really wanted something else. »

Encourage teamwork
And this is the last point: do not hesitate to notice the moments where children work well together!
« You did this together? You make quite a team! »
Like when Oscar and Alice made their little brothers halloween costumes… They did a fantastic job! So you see… it is possible, don’t doubt about it!

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