When each of my sons was born, I was ecstatic to add another person to our family. I thought about things we would do together, like buying matching outfits and taking family photos or trips together. I clearly remember one trip in particular. The boys were 11, 6, and 3. As we were driving to Florida, I heard my 3-year-old mumbling to his 6-year-old brother, “Stop touching me.” The mumble went to a yell, “STOP TOUCHING ME!!!” I was at a loss for words, but I was able to quell that disagreement. However, it was the beginning of what I call the “Rumbling Years,” that time where it seemed like every interaction between the boys escalated into sibling arguments.
You may be experiencing the same thing with your kids. Perhaps they’re constantly arguing, hitting each other (or on the verge of it), or even ignoring their siblings. You may feel like you’re at your wits’ end. If so, you are not alone.
These tips can help you make it through your own “rumbling years.”
Remember that it’s normal for siblings to argue.
Let’s be honest. There’s no way to stop or prevent all sibling arguments. Arguments or disagreements are just a part of life. At home, within the family is the correct place for your children to learn how to handle conflict appropriately. Think of your home as the training ground for how your kids will handle conflict throughout their lives.
Help them learn how to handle conflict – it’s a necessary life skill.
Conflict is something that everyone deals with. You may or may not like dealing with conflict, but it’s a part of our lives. As your children grow up, handling conflict is a vital life skill. To handle conflict in a healthy way, your child will utilize the following skills:
NEGOTIATING. Suppose your kids are arguing over who is using the family computer. In that case, you come in and make a declaration about who uses it when. You have just prevented your children from learning how to negotiate a schedule devised by them. Think about it this way: If there were visiting grandparents and the same scenario arose, would you be there to solve the problem for them? No. Instead, teach them to solve the problem for themselves.
HOW TO AGREE TO DISAGREE WITHOUT BEING DISAGREEABLE. Some issues may not be fully resolved. The best solution may be to agree to disagree without being disagreeable. Yes, that sounds silly, but your child won’t get their way all the time. Help them learn that it’s ok to disagree with their sibling while still treating them with love, respect, and compassion.
Establish your rules of engagement.
There will be times when parents need to step in, especially if the disagreement has turned physical. There are times when the best thing to do is let your children work through the conflict on their own. Don’t overreact to their arguments. Remember when they fell as they learned to walk? If you reacted, they did, too. If you were calm, they were subdued. It’s the same with sibling disagreements. You can calmly say, “If you are going to argue, please do so in your own room.” (They may look at you strangely, especially if they are accustomed to your intervention.)
Acknowledge that their arguments make you uncomfortable.
I remember my mother asking me, as the oldest, “Why don’t you and your brother get along?” She went on to say, “My older brother took care of me. Why can’t you do that for your brother?” My mother was well-intentioned, but she was placing the interactions she had with her brother on me and my brother. Has that happened to you? My mother’s fear was that we (my brother and I) wouldn’t be close as adults based on our sibling arguments. Is that a concern of yours?
You are stressed and tired of acting like the referee. And it seems that your children are at each other’s throats all the time. Nevertheless, remain calm, knowing that this time in life teaches both you and your children lessons about patience and compromise. In the end, you all learn that conflict doesn’t have to ruin relationships going forward.