How to Manage Disputes Between Siblings When You’re Stuck at Home

By now, at the start of the week that I don’t even know what isolating your kids from a pandemic is, you’ve probably come to terms with your own declining productivity as you shift the energy to being a full-time teacher in apps that you were. didn’t hear anything a month ago.

Meanwhile, kids who used to get their own space, spent time with friends and lived outside of your home get stuck inside and get on each other’s nerves.

We reached out to some parenting experts for advice on how to help them get along with each other so we can all get our jobs done, find time to play and relax, and get the most out of stress and uncertainty.

Intervene or not?

It may be tempting to close the door and let them sort it out, but child psychologist Dr. Emily W. King warns against ignoring sibling quarrels.

“If someone isn’t hurting, teach them how to solve problems on their own,” she says. “We really need to work hard to train this. If we just say, “I don’t want to hear about this,” then we may be missing out on an opportunity to teach problem-solving skills that will help them solve problems on their own in the future. “

If the fight is physical, you must definitely intervene. Even children who are usually not physically active can have trouble controlling this impulse in this strange new world of isolation. Hopefully one stern reminder will fix them.

“It’s important to teach kids to distinguish chatter from storytelling ,” King says. “If one child comes up to you and says that their brother is grimacing, that they don’t like it, that will gossip because the child is not injured.”

She recommends this scenario to mediate more subdued disputes:

You: Did you like it when your brother / sister (XYZ is annoying)?

Kid: No.

You: Well, go and tell him you didn’t like it, and please tell me what they are trying to say instead of (annoying XYZ thing).

“It can take years of practice between siblings, so keep sending them back into conflict to solve their problems,” King says. “On the other hand, we want to praise the child for saying that someone is insulting or showing physical aggression. This is what we need for parenting and helping the hurt child learn what to do instead. It is very important for a child to understand that coping with this behavior is the parents’ job, not theirs. ”

Four-step approach

Jen Lumanlan of the podcast Your Parenting Mojo uses the analogy of “teaching them to fish instead of giving them fish” (and thus obliges himself to keep fighting back forever). In other words, you can stop fights, but then the kids will still need you to stop every fight.

Luhmanlan, who has a master’s degree in psychology with a focus on child development, created a Facebook group and an online course , Kids Out of School: Now What? – help parents manage life with their children during a pandemic. During a recent live broadcast of a group with parenting coach Dr. Laura Froen, Luhmanlan described her four-step process for helping children overcome their differences:

Step 1. Observe without judgment

Consider yourself an impartial conflict storyteller. For example, if your kids are fighting over a toy, you might say, “I see two kids who really want to play with the red car.”

Luhmanlan said that this observation shows the little ones that you are not taking sides.

Step 2. Connect to understand each child’s feelings

Ask each child what happened and what they thought about it. Ask them to repeat or acknowledge the other child’s point of view. For very young children, you may need to assume how they are feeling and then confirm that you understand their non-verbal cues. Even older children may not get used to feeling language.

“When you have a child who doesn’t like to talk about his feelings, we sometimes avoid it by talking about ‘what’s bothering you’ or ‘what makes him difficult,’ said Froyen during the live broadcast.

Step 3. Understand their basic needs

This is where you do the hard work of identifying the root of the disagreement. Luhmanlan shared this list of needs that children can strive to meet when they are upset or disagree. Does any kid really need a red car? Probably no. Maybe she needs some stimulation, and the red car is the fastest and most exciting. Perhaps he needs a connection and feels especially attached to the red car because he and his friend played with it on their last date.

Understanding what each child really needs sets you up for the final step in resolving conflict between siblings, namely:

Step 4. Find a solution

If Child A needs order and sorts all LEGOs by color, and Child B needs to get creative and wants to build a giant LEGO rainbow, how can their needs be met? Maybe child B can create a rainbow collage, or child A can apply her organizing skills to a basket of crayons.

Or maybe by the time you get to step 4, the kids will say, “Mom, you’re weird,” and they both have the combined strength to play somewhere far away from you. But dear exhausted parent, practicing this process will supposedly prepare your children to resolve their own disputes without involving you in it. You still have weeks of isolation to test it out!

“It’s really good for kids to solve their problems while no one gets hurt,” King says. “If a parent hears insults or physical contact occurs between siblings, it’s time to step in. If siblings can tell each other how they feel and negotiate a compromise, stay away from it and their problem-solving process will be much more rewarding for them because they did it on their own. ”

Go to your corner

“We all have a tendency to get annoyed when we’re around someone who we think is annoying us, violating our space, or pushing our buttons — all of this common behavior between siblings,” King says. “During this time of quarantine, it will be important to structure time together and structure time alone, when siblings are asked to part ways and spend some time alone with reading, LEGO or watching their favorite show.”

This one is suitable for both adults and children. I have to give credit to my daughter’s kindergarten counselor for reminding her (me) that we all need to have a “soothing” space to go to when we feel angry, sad, or frustrated.

Yes, parents are also more prone to exhaustion under all this pressure. Our children’s disagreements can even provoke us because we recall a time when another child stood in the way of our deeply felt needs.

“Our children open us up and shed light on all the places where we are injured and need healing,” said Frøyen during the live broadcast.

So if you start feeling a little unfriendly with family members during this weird time, don’t be afraid to ask yourself what your basic needs are.


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