Siblings fighting is the bane of practically every parent’s life.
Depending on our own beliefs around when it’s happening, and the fallout from those conflicts as to how well we navigate.
I’ve certainly been involved in some classic sibling battles, both myself and as a parent. I’ve made some of the classic, what I now know are, mistakes when it comes to sorting them out.
As a parent, I’m much more of the warrior/lioness mum. So felt I could hold my own in these situations. Problem was, it would be “control” rather than collaboration. Doh.
We all do the best we know how, so no guilt trips.
To Apologise or Not to Apologise
There’s often a big temptation to make children apologise. The problem is, if you demand an apology from a child, (or anyone really), that can trigger their warning system and they end up with their guard up. Their survival system in protection or reaction mode.
While it sounds like good parenting, if done before connection first, you end up losing trust points.
The best method to support a child learn is through modelling that wanted behaviour. What that means is, when you do something that hurts, or seems to have hurt someone, model apologising. That way your child gets to see that process in action.
Then when they start to do it, is to notice, acknowledge and validate their actions. (reinforcing the behaviour you do want).
Kids do what works. When we can be noticing when they are doing the things we do want, and to avoid too much attention about what we don’t want. We make it far easier on the learning journey.
When you have two kids “fighting”, with each other. Sometimes the best intervention is NO intervention.
Sure we are responsible for their safety. We are not responsible for ensuring they like each other.
All we can do is create an environment where we support them learn standards of behaviour that will hold them in good stead in regular world.
Like many things on the child development journey, home is the testing ground. Home is where they learn how to navigate difficult situations, so that when they happen out in regular world, they have a better chance of coping well and being a person that others want to be with.
That means we often get to see the lesser or darker versions of our child, as they experiment within the safety of home.
If intervention is required,
STEP ONE. Avoid taking sides.
This can be difficult, and it’s appreciating that when a child perceives you are taking sides, is to avoid being defensive.
It’s certainly worth checking in with yourself, “Was I taking sides”? Because the truth is, when we look at it from our child’s perspective it may appear that way.
Tweenager, emotionally all over the place, using derogatory language and saying other hurtful things to a younger sibling and/or us. Sometimes hits out. Tends to push buttons to start fights.
When parent steps in to stop the behaviour, the tweenager gets even madder and accuses parent of taking sides.
In the moment, it is pointless to get involved in the justification of your actions, because the tweenager is likely to already be in survival mode. No one can learn or hear to listen. The best thing is to validate the child’s emotions. EG, Sounds like you are really frustrated, and it’s natural when you feel this isn’t fair. The problem is, I am responsible for everyone’s safety, so I’d really appreciate if we can separate, and we can talk later.
When a child has a tendency towards “button pushing” and other similar behaviours, it’s often an indication that they feel out of control. They may be experiencing anxiety. This is particularly the case for children with poor impulse control, and those children with very dominant/strong willed behaviour profiles, who are more likely to be getting into trouble for rash behaviour.
STEP TWO – Seek best Intentions.
When any child is acting out in anyway, it is communication. Often completely subconsciously driven. Instead of judging the behaviour, if we seek best intentions first, we can explore and find out what might be behind the behaviour.
Seeking best intentions allows our own “shark music” to be mastered, and keep focused on supporting the child, rather than getting annoyed about the behaviour.
STEP THREE – Connect and be curious.
After things have settled down. Loop back around with both children separately and support them process their experience. Not taking sides and rather validating their feelings, empathising with their perspective and being curious about the meanings they have chosen.
The Power of Showing UP.
It’s natural for our own feelings and concerns to flash up in these moments. The worry about are we doing the right thing. Why can’t they just get along.
I notice a lot of our anxiety relates to taking ownership of our child’s behaviour. The reality is we cannot and do not control the choices our children make. No matter who much we try and “manage” them, they are humans and have free will.
The best gift we can give them is to love them unconditionally. Even our wild and difficult children. Not overindulging them. They are children and still need healthy boundaries.
Unconditional love accepts the child even when the behaviour is opportunity for improvement.
When we show up without judgement, justification or defensiveness, our child gets to feel seen and heard.
So often old-world parenting felt the need to rehash the mistakes that had been made aka teach them a lesson. All this does is layers on the shame, contributing to low self-esteem. Not something most parents want for their children.
Instead, for our children that have made a mistake. They already know there was a mistake. The little ones are too young to be doing too much explaining about what they did wrong, and the older ones don’t need any more salt rubbed into the wound to their identity.
Stronger and Wiser.
In those moments our children need us to be their safe haven.
Even though they are unlikely to say it. Their biggest fear when they make a mistake is that we will reject or abandon them. It’s not logical, and that’s because until age 8-10, they don’t yet have the capability to process for logic by themselves.
It’s why we have to be wiser. Our role is not to judge. It’s to guide with love. Providing healthy boundaries so that they can learn the edges of their world.