How Not to Take Sides When Siblings Fight

 

In our family, one of the realities we face is siblings who fight. I tend to want to stop my children’s rivalry in its tracks, but I have found that I sometimes contribute to the problem rather than solve it.  Ultimately, I really want my children to figure out how to stop fighting on their own, but at first, I didn’t have the tools.  Through Connected Families, I learned how to teach my children to solve their quarrels–a life skill I want them to carry into adulthood.

How not to take sides when siblings fight

Examining Motives

“Don’t jump to conclusions” and “believe the best in people” are two phrases I repeat often in my family — especially to my 11-year-old son.

But, if I’m honest, when my kids fight I am the one who jumps to conclusions and doesn’t believe the best in people.

As the youngest of four kids myself (poor, innocent me) I naturally see life from my daughter’s point of view (age 9). My husband, who grew up as the older brother of two, naturally sees life from our son’s point of view. When we get involved in our children’s fights it is almost impossible to act as neutral parties, since we’ve got our own baggage to deal with!

This is why, when I started immersing myself in Connected Families content a few years ago (before I was employed with them) parenting tips like “When Kids Fight” helped guide me through some really difficult times. Here’s one of my favorite lines:

If fighting children are constructively managed, they will learn to work through conflict constructively. They’ll learn that resolving conflict well is a win for both parties.

Strategies to Use When Siblings Fight

I want to prepare my children well for life… to “launch” them well into adulthood. This means that they know about practical life things, like using money wisely and the dangers of credit card debt. This also means knowing how to load and unload a dishwasher and clean a bathroom. But one of the most important things I can teach them — something they can use their entire life with a spouse, co-worker, or boss — is how to resolve conflict well — on their own, without my interference!

So now, rather than instinctively barging in and taking my daughter’s side, I calmly use the following types of questions:

  • “Woah! Sounds pretty tense in here. Does anyone need a breather?”
  • “Do you two need help working this out, or can you do this on your own?”

And then, once my kids have resolved their conflict, I give them loads of praise and tell them what a fantastic skill they are learning that will help them forever.

No, I don’t get this right all the time. Sometimes when I am annoyed or tired or frustrated or stressed (or even just hungry) I charge in like a bull in a china shop and start making accusations and demands. And then I humbly pick up the pieces and apologize with the hopes that even my big mess-ups can be used to teach humility, grace, and the importance of resolution.
Updated June 2016.


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