Last week we talked about IF, WHEN, and HOW to intervene in your kids’ altercations. We separated the types of fights into Lion Cub Fights and Helpless Rage fights and discussed what to do in each situation. If you missed it, click here.
Today we are covering more crucial info to help you help your kids get along.
But first, let’s remember that we’re all doing our best. We’re learning as we go. This is difficult stuff. Not only that, it’s NORMAL stuff. So be compassionate to yourself as you navigate this warzone.
Ok, let’s dive in.
1. Bigger doesn’t mean stronger
In the last post we said that in Lion Cub Fights we won’t intervene at all, and will let our kids be, completely, no matter what is going on. That might feel impossible to many. You might be saying – my older one will crush my younger! But ask yourself – is your little one tough? Can she/he defend themselves? If they are 5, 3, or even 1, I bet the answer is yes. If so, they do not need your protection. They are probably much stronger than you give them credit for. In a fight with their sibling they can take care of themselves. Not only that, there are advantages that only the smaller ones know how to use: crying first, getting more empathy, seeming weak, acting quick.
2. Find the time.
If you take nothing else from these two posts then heed this advice: Find time to be alone with each kid. I know you know this one and I know it’s not easy to do. And in quarantine it’s near impossible. Who has time for that? But parents, it is one of the most important things you can do to keep the peace at home.
Even if it is 10 minutes in a room with each a day. Put the other on a screen if you must. Or have QT as you sit with them by the bath, or as they help you make dinner, or as you play a game. It helps your child feel loved, seen, appreciated, and special. And that reduces the need for competition. I promise you it can make all the difference in how your kids behave with each other. Now here’s how you can make that alone time even more effective:
3. Witness their specialness.
So much of sibling rivalry is vying for OUR attention and love. So let’s cut it off at the pass. Before they start to feel invisible and unloved and want to kill off their competition, let’s remind our kids why we love, appreciate and admire them. Go for the meaningful compliments about their personality, and their process – “I love how you thought so carefully about how you would build that tower and then you sat patiently and didn’t get up until it was done.” “ I admire how you see things in a unique way and make me see things differently.”
Since we are in triage mode during this quarantine time, make a rule for yourself ot say at least 3 of these types of compliments a day.
4. Team building.
- Punish both. If you feel like you need repercussion, remember this rule. Punish both. Last week we talked about how each side feels equally wronged. It is important not to distinguish between punishments so that the kids don’t feel that we are blaming one more than the other.
- Reward both. By the same token, when possible, reward them both. Have they gone a full day without altercation? Both deserve a reward for that. Make sure to find times like these. Have they gone an hour without an altercation? Prize!!
- Team them up. Try to play family games in which they are on the same team against you or both parents. Let them band together against you. We want to do whatever it takes for their animosity to move away from each other, even if it means moving toward you.
5. Don’t spotlight the other.
When alone with one, don’t talk too much about the other. No matter what you say they will interpret it as you saying the other is better. Read: that you love the other more.
6. Unite the coaches – you all
- Synchronize messaging. Worse than us taking on the roll of the referee is having two referees who disagree. In our home, my husband is quicker to defend the younger sibling and I’m quicker to defend the older. And that causes tension between us, and the kids are always watching. Talk to your partner about NOT refereeing, about the strategies you will start to use moving forward (from last week’s blog), and about keeping it consistent between you both.
- Model communication. We need to model the type of interaction we are expecting for the kids. Tell your partner your own feelings instead of blaming. Meaning, instead of saying – “I’ve been watching the kids all day and you haven’t even picked up a plate.” talk. Explain. Say “Its been a hard day. I’ve been chasing them non stop and feel exhausted. And when you finished work and sat to look at your phone it made me feel resentful.” Show your kids how to communicate feelings and that when it is done well it repairs the rupture.
Talk to your kids about the nature of sibling dynamics. Explain what competition means. Explain why they are feeling it and tell them all siblings feel it. Tell them it is fine to feel rage but there are more productive ways of expressing it than through physical fighting.
If they need to get their physical aggression toward their sibling out, grab a pillow and let them punch, for a while, as long as they can. Let them yell all of their angry thougts and feelings. It’s a great way to release some of that energy.
But also explain how lucky they are that they get to work on peer dynamics at home. This is the stuff of life. We constantly deal with these dynamics at work and with friends. How lucky they are to get to practice with someone who will be by their side forever, no matter how bad it gets.
8. Remember: YOU are the object.
One last point. As we’ve talked about in these two posts, siblings are competing over your love and attention. They are angry at their sibling for taking attention away but they are angry at YOU for having more kids. But our kids can’t fully take it out on us. It is much safer to take it out on their sibling. Taking it out on us means risking pushing us away, or even losing us. I don’t mean this literally. We aren’t going anywere. But that is the fantasy of our kids.
So in order to protect the relationship of your kids together, allow your children to take it out on you. Also, allow them to connect when they need. In fact, ALL of our kids’ interactions with us are vying for connection, even when they don’t feel that way.
Ok Tunie. I hope these posts help with your situation at home.
Need more help? I’ve got a workshop starting next week and there are still a few spots open.
Join us for a NEW ONLINE WORKSHOP FOR PARENTS – Individualized counseling on how to keep the peace in your home. Limited to 10 participants, meeting twice for 75 minutes.
Thursday May 7 8:15pm
Thursday May 14th 8:15pm
I’ll leave you with a song I wrote on my album about siblings. All of the songs on the album have aspects from this post. This one was taken from a loving conversation my kids had over oatmeal one morning.
“It’ll be oh it’ll be so good to be grown up with you. Cus it’s pretty good to be kids with you too.”