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.