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How Can I Stop My Children From Fighting?

By Barbara Desmarais

For some of us who grew up with siblings we have vivid memories of how our parents handled fighting.  Some of us remember always being the one who was blamed; others remember everyone being punished regardless of who the instigator was and some of us remember our parent getting so angry, the fighting only escalated.

If we study the behavior of a variety of different species in nature, we can clearly see the root of sibling rivalry. In essence the cause is competition for limited or scarce resources.  In a family, each child has the need and desire for the EXCLUSIVE love of his/her parent.  Children depend on us for everything - food, shelter and the very important need to feel SPECIAL. Feelings of anger, jealousy and resentment are all normal among siblings.

What can we do as parents when our children fight?  In most cases, unless we judge the situation to be dangerous, it's best not to intervene.  When children are involved in a physical fight we need to clarify if it's a real or a play fight.  Real fights are not permitted but play fights are OK if it appears they are truly just playing.  I always think it's wise though to limit the play fighting since they often end up with someone crying.

Normal bickering can be ignored.  If it really bothers us, we need to separate ourselves.  Children will often turn to us to resolve their problems and side with them that it was the other person's fault. They need to know we have faith they can work things out themselves. We can simply say:  "Ok, I see there is a problem but I know the two of you can work it out" and then walk away.  We often have a tendency to separate children when they're fighting.  Usually we do it because it's the easiest way to stop the noise.  Separating them doesn't teach them to resolve conflict. You do though have the right to impose some rules around name calling and put downs.  I'm often impressed with the solutions my children come up with on their own when I stay out of their arguments altogether.

All children want to feel special.  We make them feel special when we acknowledge their uniqueness and not treat each child the same.  When one child has a birthday, the other child doesn't need to be given a gift as well.  When one child gets new shoes, the other child doesn't need to have shoes as well.  When we give everyone the same thing, no one feels special. It's important to give according to need. Ensuring that each child gets regular one on one time with you also makes them feel special.  Try spending 10 minutes alone with each child at bedtime.

Avoid comparing.  When a child hears their sister or brother is in some way better than they are, it builds resentment.  Every child is unique and they all learn at different rates, have their own special likes and dislikes and exhibit different talents.  We can say:  "You are the only 'you' in the whole wide world.  No one could ever take your place."

Books for Parents:

Siblings Without Rivalry:  Adele Faber and Elaine Mazlish Loving Each One Best:  Nancy Samlin
The Joys of Sibling Rivalry:  Elizabeth Berg

Books for Children:

A Baby for Max:  Maxwell Knight
A Baby Sister for Frances:  Russell Hoban
Nobody Asked if I Wanted a Baby Sister:  Martha Alexander

Barbara Desmarais is a Parenting and Life Coach and author of the Ebook:  "Raise Your Children But Not Your Voice."  She has worked with parents for over 17 years as is the mother of two teenagers.

Visit her website at:
Phone:  604-524-1783

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