“He hit me!!!” “She took my marker!”
Have you ever thought – “I am just refereeing 24-7, and I certainly have better things to do with my day. This is just not okay! The fighting needs to stop.”
The problem is that the more we have an expectation that our children should not fight, the harder it is to deal wisely with the challenge of conflict.
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Siblings have conflict, and even if we don’t want our kids to fight, it happens. Even a little pushing and shoving can be normal. The fighting itself is not necessarily the problem, it’s what kids learn about conflict and resolution over time that’s important.
This blog addresses physical fighting between siblings, but the principles apply to verbal fights or peer relationships as well.
How Fights are Reinforced…or Resolved
If kids get a stern scolding, angry tones, harsh consequences, and nothing else from parents when they physically fight then fighting is reinforced because the combative mood is continued and modeled by the parents. In the kids’ minds, scolding is nothing more than a grown up form of intimidation and power. Children learn by the adult’s example that to win at fights is to win at life.
However, if fighting children are constructively managed, they will learn to work through conflict better. They’ll learn that resolving conflict well is a win for both parties. So here are some quick ideas for constructive conflict intervention when kids fight.
“My older child constantly mistreats my younger child for no apparent reason! All my efforts to make it stop seem to fail.
What can I do?”
We are asked some variation of this question at almost every workshop we do. The way siblings interact is a powerful training grounds for future relationships. So we have made available a chapter about sibling relationships from our book How to Grow a Connected Family — as a free download.
Click here to see the chapter.