I have three children, a daughter aged 11 months, and sons three and five. I wanted my children to be close in age, I pictured a small gang of children happily playing together. Having grown up pretty much an only child (I have a sister but she is 11 years older, and left home when I was seven) I wanted my children to have what I didn’t. I wanted them to always have someone to play with.
What I hadn’t bargained for was the squabbling. The boys play together most days. Sometimes it goes well (usually I suspect when my youngest is willing to do exactly what his brother wants him too). At other times it does not, it escalates into tale telling, yelling, wresting (and not the fun kind) and then tears. My eldest is fairly bossy (not at all like his mother) and my youngest has a tendency to use dirty tactics (biting, body slamming, head locking etc) to get his own way.
I don’t claim to be an expert, but I have developed some strategies to minimise the squabbling and help the boys to play nicely together.
1. Where ever possible don’t get involved. I have a rule of thumb regarding squabbles, if it looks like it may end in an A and E trip I get involved. If not I give them space to sort it out themselves. I have found that if I get involved too regularly then the squabbling becomes a form of attention seeking. If it gets no attention it is less appealing.
I also see the squabbling as a learning opportunity. If it’s possible for them to negotiate the problem themselves thats a great skill to learn.
2.Don’t take sides. Usually an argument is caused by both children. If I am needed in negotiations I try to get each child to take ownership for their behaviour. I also try to get each child to see the situation from the other child’s point of view.
Obviously if it has escalated into violent behaviour (hitting, biting, pushing) the child concerned does some time out. Even so I would still try to find the root cause of the violence so that the other child takes some responsibility for the situation.
3.Ensure that each child is getting enough solo attention from you. I find that when my children are each getting enough time with me alone then they are more happy when playing together. So I try to make time each week to spend some alone time with each child. I might take one out for a walk or to help me with an errand. Alternatively I will ask one to pick an activity (such as lego or drawing) and spend a focussed hour doing that with them.
This isn’t easy to schedule but it really helps. When all the children are getting what they need from me there is less reason to be jealous of each other.
4.Don’t compare your children. All my children are very different from each other. They have different strengths and weaknesses. I try to dish out praise to all of the children equally. That way they all feel valued and loved and again there is less reason for jealousy.
These are my tips for avoiding sibling squabbles. I’m sure as my children grow I will have to adapt and deal with new sibling issues (I’m already fairly nervous about my daughter learning to talk and joining in). If you have any other tips (particularly those with older children) I’d love to hear them. Please share the strategies and help us all stay one step ahead of our children’s squabbling.
Thats a great read there Ella thank you for sharing. I admire you for coping with 3 children so well, I find two a right handful at times! You strike me as a laid back person so that must help too xx
Thanks Jenny , funnily enough I found two a real handful as well. Wonder Girl is so mellow it really helps.
if your kids don’t fight with each other, you’re doing something wrong. I have two girls, four years apart. They don’t fight. They statred out wanting to fight, but because of my experiences as a child (and the pain I carry with me from it) I explained to them they were going to be the only ones they would have to turn to when they were older. We wouldn’t be there, they would only have each other. What they did to each other now would affect how they felt each other later.So are they broken? Am I doing something wrong? I don’t think so . The younger one adores the elder one and the elder pays careful attention to her sister. Yes they get tired of each other, but they don’t fight. They have shorthand codes to tell each other how they feel and when they need space. I’ve been told by teachers that the maturity and empathy that they display with other children is far beyond their years. I wonder have we as parents put too much responsibility on them? I hope not.
Ella, I get so happy when I read your thoughtÂ´s. You are such a very clever mother. You have written down the most importent things when you have to do with “fights” betwen children. For sure they will have “tools” to use when they get in trouble with other people, when they grow up. You let them find it by themselfs and as a adult, you help them when they get stucket. Have a wonderful and peaceful eastern. As we say in Swedish: GLAD PÃ…SK!
Thanks Anne, your always so encouraging, it’s great !
Excellent advice and all strategies I’ve employed in the past
Haha I am really broody at the moment and am trying to use the ‘Iyla will get on so well with a younger brother or sister’ to persuade Matt. I forgot about all the sibling squabbles! Me and my sister used to be awful! x
Thanks for the brilliant advice!
We’re trying to conceive our 2nd, so will keep these tips in mind for the future! 🙂
I am always steiraepng my kids. I never had siblings and the fighting is so explosive I never know how to handle it. I always get them away from each other and then talk to them each about how they handled it. I must admit, it is easier on ME to deal with them seperately. I have no idea how else I can diffuse the situation. My kids are young, so I cannot imagine how it will be as they grow older. Yes, sometimes I am yelling at them. It always makes me feel awful too .but then there are days when I can keep my cool and not take it personally. It is bad, but I see myself, my husband, grandparents, friends and even people at the grocery store talking over their kids as their kids try to reason with them yes, kids trying to reason with the adults. We are just as bad at listening as they are! Anyway, I see the things I need to change, and keep trying. Sometimes it seems I am just a negative heap of frustration for my kids and husbad. I can be so negative! I see it after they are asleep and I can look back on the day. Ugh, sometimes it is ugly. How is it I can see these things, but not make consistant changes? Why on earth is that so hard?
My sister and I are 4 years apart. I reeembmr there being a lot of difficult years between us. I seemed to always annoy her with my young age & I hated that she seemed too cool for me. There were times we got along great which tended to be when we were playing with barbies or a game that didn’t take much skill like UNO. But then when it came to me needing to be “smart” to play a game with her she grew agitated quickly and I hated that she seemed to hate me so much. But now…closer than ever!! I think part of it just comes with the age difference and there isn’t a lot you can do about it.Try to encourage them with activities you know they can do well together & try to teach your older son patience in more difficult situations like I imagine checkers would be. I would imagine something like building a fort together, playing legos, building a track for race cars, etc. would be common task that they could do together that would lead to less frustration that is unless your 5 year old still enjoys that destruction phase! 🙂