Can you hear that? It’s the sound of all out warfare. Not just the blood curdling battle cry, but the use of guns and knives.
What started as a disagreement quickly escalates. The incensed younger brother then shot his sibling with an (albeit faulty and barely working) air gun.
Enraged, and with his tail smarting, the older brother chases the younger one around the kitchen. Brandishing a carving knife.
It’s a true story. It’s sibling rivalry, and it’s every parent’s nightmare.
Your kids, my kids, all kids with siblings wish (at least at times) that their brothers and sisters had not been born.
Sometimes they take actions to eliminate them.
So how do you handle it? Here are five strategies to prevent World War Three at your place:
1. Refuse to elect a leader
Basically, don’t put anyone in charge of anyone else. It’s not fair on the person in charge (who has no real power or authority), and the other siblings will just be resentful.
So, what do you do instead? Make the children responsible for themselves.
Say something like, “You are each in charge of yourselves. You both know what’s right, and what’s wrong, and I trust you both to do the right thing.”
This encourages younger kids to take responsibility, and older kids to accept the imperfections of others.
As the children are responsible for themselves, they don’t need to report anyone’s failure to adhere to rules!
2. Implement on a hands-off policy
You know how quickly kids can resort to hitting and kicking each other. They get emotional, and they lash out.
Having a hands-off policy doesn’t mean kids will stick to it, but you need to make it clear that hitting and hurting are not appropriate ways to solve problems.
The hands-off policy gives you something to refer to when kids respond physically to conflict.
You can say something like; “We have a hands-off policy in our family. You crossed the line when you whacked your brother. We cool down and talk things through here. How will you fix this situation?”
Use your hands-off policy as a gentle reminder that your kids are not expressing themselves appropriately, and need to consider others. Even people they don’t agree with.
3. Know who owns the problem
If two of your children are arguing over a toy, it’s not your problem – it’s theirs. While their disagreement may impact you, the dispute is between the two of them.
If one of your children comes to you pleading their case, try saying, “Sounds like you’ve got a problem.”
This lets your child know that you’re not getting involved, and they have the responsibility of sorting it out.
This is a simple, easy solution that you can implement right away.
4. Give them a choice
If your kids can’t sort out who’s using the toy first, give them a choice.
Something like, “You can choose to sort out how to share the toy, or I can put it in the cupboard. It’s your choice”.
This gives them the power over the situation, and the motivation to find a solution that works for everyone.
5. Discover the power tool of one-on-one time
Here’s a super-secret strategy and ultra-effective power tool: spending special time with each of your kids individually, each day.
If you spend time individually with each child, preferably twice a day, you’ll notice a big change. Be sure you are emotionally available to your child during this time, and do whatever the child wants to do.
That’s right; let your child choose the activity. This gives them a feeling of power, and makes them feel important.
This single, simple strategy work wonders.
You have to do what works for you and your family. How you handle sibling rivalry will depend on what you think works best for you and your family.
With your support, your kids can learn to discuss, bargain and agree. Rather than chase each about with carving knives.
Speaking of knives, you’ll be pleased to know that the two boys trying to kill each other at the beginning of this post are both fine and well.
The younger one is married with two (nearly adult) kids. I married the one brandishing the knife, and we have two girls. None of us chases anyone around the house with knives, at least not that I’m aware of. Instead we use these secrets of sibling rivalry.
Why don’t you give them a go, too? After all, you want independent, resilient kids. Kids who learn to negotiate to get what they want.
Kids who you support to sort out their arguments themselves.
Go and empower them. You can do it.
Do you experience sibling rivalry in your house? How do you handle it? Please share in the comments below.