After my teleseminar on improving sibling relationships the other week, I got quite a lot of emails from parents who wanted to dig deeper into their children's behaviors. I thought it would be interesting and helpful to ask some of my favorite bloggers and parenting experts to offer their thoughts on a few of the questions that seemed to have some universal themes. My hope is that by answering publicly, that we can not only offer some helpful advice, but also show that those of us working through sibling conflict aren't alone in our struggle.
|Lisa Sunbury, a generous and insightful parenting expert.|
"I am a Nanny, and currently work with a family that has two young children, one is 5 (Michael), and the other one is 2.5 (Eric). I have noticed many subtle and intense behaviors between them, and hopefully, you can give me some directions. Here is a typical situation:
Eric picks up and plays with a toy that "used to" belong to Michael, and Michael will say "Hey, that's mine. I want it back", or "Eric, can I have that/have it back?" Eric would respond "No, it's mine" Then there is "No. It's mine" back and forth, till Michael takes it out of Eric's hand, and 1) Eric cries, or 2) Michael takes it from Eric's hand, and Eric bites Michael arm/head-butts Michael, or 3)Eric runs away from Michael, and starts a chase, then Eric throws the toy at Michael (sometimes, Michael dodges successfully, sometimes he fails).
The actual hitting and chasing usually happens when I am not in the same room with them--I would be in the kitchen cooking, or doing other house work. When I am in the same room with them as the conflict starts, I usually narrate "Eric is playing with xxx, and Michael wants it back". They would both look at me, and one of them would say, "It's mine" or "I want it" then I would say, "You both want the same toy, how can you work it out so you both have fun?"
That doesn't seem to sink in since they would continue the tug-of-war until the physical force starts. I then either place my hand on the toy (if hitting has not occurred), and say, "How are you going to work this out?" This usually ends up with me putting the toy away after a few minutes of "But I want it/it's mine/NO it's mine". If Eric is about to hit, or throw, I would block Eric's head or hand, and say "I don't want you hit your brother". He usually cries after I say that, or he would attempt to hit me in the face. I block his hand and say, "I know you are xxx, but I won't let you hit."
I say the toy "used to" belong to Michael since he is the first born, and there are many many toys that were given to Michael before Eric was born, and now those toys are in the playroom. The parents' rule is if a toy is in the playroom, it belongs to everyone. Who gets it first, gets to play. When Michael brings a toy given to him as a personal gift from his room to the playroom, I usually remind him that the rule is when a toy is brought to the playroom, everyone gets to play with it, and ask him if he is ready to share it with Eric. Sometimes he says yes, and sometimes, No. When he says no, I work through the scenario with him about handling his brother's desire of wanting to play with his personal toy.
This might sound like I am talking to him out of it... I could only handle many conflicts a day. Sometimes, I just tell him straight and honest that I am not ready for another fight, and if he insists to bring the toy to the playroom, he will need to find a way to share (now, as I am writing this, I realized what you said on the call.... to replace the word "share" with "take turns". Haha).
Another typical situation is they would do things to each other knowing that by doing so, the other person would react (or shall I say knowing that the grown-ups would react). Or when I am playing with Eric, Michael would interrupt by telling Eric what he should be doing, or correcting Eric's play. When Eric ignores Michael, he takes away what Eric is playing with... and there goes the pattern...."
~ Hannah-Lee DavisLisa's answer:
|As hard as it can be for parents, sibling battles|
can be a teaching opportunity.
|This chalkboard table top idea from maya*made|
is one way to entertain kids while you cook.
|Sometimes it feels as though your|
kids fight about every little thing.
This language is neutral, and isn't "blaming" one boy or the other, and it moves the conversation away from who had the toy first, who it belongs to, whose fault it is that someone is upset. The arguments the boys are having aren't really over the toys or ownership anyway.The real questions and the bigger issues underlying the struggle are these: How are the boys learning to be in relationship with each other? How do they learn to negotiate alone and together time? How do they learn to communicate, co-operate, and get along with each other in a mutually beneficial and enjoyable way without violence, and how do they work through conflict in a way that leaves everyone feeling heard and respected?
Interestingly enough, the three year old has learned to enjoy this time to play with toys in the playroom that his sister sometimes monopolizes, and/or to enjoy some one on one time with me. If Michael wants to bring a special toy to the family playroom and the family rule is that all toys in the playroom are fair game, I'd simply remind him of the rule, and if he says he doesn't anyone else to play with his toy, I'd respond, "That's fine, but then I am going to ask you to keep the toy/play with the toy in your room."
|Playing games together can be a great way to|
increase your children's bond with each other.
Sometimes, I will gently coach one or both of them..."What's another way you could ask for a turn?", "It sounds like you might both need to take a break to cool down." If they are both upset and yelling, I sometimes ask them to each take a turn to say what they want to, but again, I encourage them to talk to each other, and not to me, and I act like the broadcaster. I also acknowledge times when they are enjoying each other, playing peacefully, or when either one shows kindness to the other. "I really like how you are helping each other/talking with each other/ playing and co-operating together."
|Ultimately, what we all want as parents are|
siblings who love and respect each other.
The only way they can learn to negotiate conflict and to live together peacefully is by having ample opportunity to practice! There aren't short cuts. We can't will it, or do it for them as much as we'd like to at times. This is a gift you're giving to them, and one that will serve them well in all of their relationships!
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