I thought they’d be best friends…
Your children are spending a lot more time together now than normal. In very close quarters. Sibling rivalry is going to be an issue at some point for most families in typical circumstances, let alone in the current climate.
Sibling rivalry or quarrels are totally normal, but it is important for us to support and arm our children to handle these situations in a way that is appropriate. Preferably without screaming through the house or being physical!
Children have a lot less life experience than adults. They’ve had less time to learn how to deal with conflict resolution and are still developing the skills to express their concerns or feelings verbally.
As adults, it is importance that we are wary of labelling our children, whether it be intentionally or unintentionally. Refrain from labelling children with titles such as “the good eater”, “the sporty one” or “the cheeky one”. This can be a label that sticks with the children through to adulthood as well as negatively impacting siblings through thoughts such as “well I must be the bad eater”.
Often when children display undesirable behaviour, they are seeking attention as suggested by Dr Louise Porter. We need to ensure we are dedicating one on one time to each of our children each day where we are completely investing in them for as little as 10 minutes. No phones, no TV, no distractions, just you and them.
A child in a heightened state is receiving no information. If your children are at the peak of a disagreement they cannot be reasoned with and you will not be teaching them any grand life lessons. Not yet. Once the smoke has settled and everyone has calmed down, revisit the disagreement. Remain completely unbiased but hear both sides of the disagreement. Encourage the children to explain their thoughts and feelings.
Allow and encourage the children to reach their own conclusion. This is not always possible, but children are often more capable and empathetic than we give them credit for. This may need to be guided but see if they can create a solution that all parties agree to.
It is also beneficial for children to view conflict resolution in real life. If you have a disagreement with a spouse, friend, parent, peer etc that children view, it can be beneficial for them to see how you resolve this and reach a mutual conclusion.
Often children can resolve their own conflict without adult intervention. Encourage this! We do not need to immediately jump in if children are having a disagreement with their sibling. Allowing them the time and space with the tools you’ve armed them with, can lead to a resolution for all. But not always! Obviously, safety is paramount and there may be situations where you are required to step in. But sometimes quietly to the side can be very effective.
We all have feelings, dealing with them appropriately is not always easy. If it is difficult for us, imagine how difficult it is for a child with just three years’ experience in this world.
Take a breath, be patient and be empathetic.
You’ve got this!