Squashing Sibling Squabbles Over Stuff

When it comes to kids, sharing is a fundamental lesson most parents strive to teach throughout the early years. But when it comes to siblings, it can be easy to go overboard and force them to share everything. While sharing with siblings is certainly important, having some items that you call your own is equally important and helps foster feelings of ownership, responsibility and self-esteem. If your siblings seem to be constantly fighting over toys or clothes, here’s some important points worth considering.

Mine, yours and ours is a real-world concept. In the real-world, it’s no secret that you don’t have to share everything. While of course it’s important to raise kind and empathetic children who can recognize needs and have a willingness to meet them, setting children up to believe that everyone has to share everything with them all of the time will only lead to disappointment.

Responsibility is taught through having your own things. Think about your most prized possession. Is it tossed on the floor or is it packed away neatly, protected from the elements and preserved to maintain its value? When you have something that is yours, it becomes valued and treasured. When children have a treasured toy that they don’t have to share, they learn to care for it properly and take responsibility for it.

Children feel good when they are able to take care of their own things. Consider the sense of pride you feel when you’re house is sparkling clean. It feels good to know that you take care of your things and keep them in good form. Children experience the same satisfaction when they’re proven to be capable of caring for their treasured items.

Having special things you don’t have to share increases the ease of sharing other things. If you know that your most favorite items are not required to be shared, it becomes a little easier to share those other items that aren’t so precious. Sometimes it doesn’t even matter what a child has to call his own, the mere fact that he has something he knows he doesn’t have to share makes sharing other things a bit easier.

If you have things out that you don’t want to share, you’re going to be forced to share. When you treasure things that you don’t want or have to share, it’s important not to bring those things out when there will be others who want to check them out. But children can learn pretty quickly that a lot of fun can be lost if you are not willing to share. If your pink stuffed bear is a toy your child isn’t required to share, bringing him out around friends isn’t going to be fun. A friend may not want to play with you if you aren’t willing to share, and a child may opt to share his prized possession rather than having to put it back for no one to hold.

Instead of forcing your children to share everything, allow them to pick a few toys, perhaps ones they’ve received as birthday or holiday gifts that aren’t stored with the communal toys, to set aside and keep for their own. Having a special storage bin for those chosen items that no one else can take things out of can help to reinforce that each child has their own special toys that they need to care for and that are off limits to others. In addition to fostering a sense of responsibility in each of your children, you just might find less squabbling and more sharing as your children grow and play together.

How to Avoid Sibling Rivalry

By Marcia Hall

There isn’t much that is more infuriating as a parent than hearing and seeing your children bicker and fight constantly.  If you had siblings close in age growing up, you likely remember having your older brothers or sisters pick on you or having your younger brothers and sisters constantly annoy you.  As families grow, rarely are the children in the house consulted for their opinion or given the opportunity to say, “No, I do not want a sibling,” so it should be no surprise to parents that these little people who are forced to live in the same house, share the same toys and often sleep in the same room will argue from time to time.  In fact, when siblings are never at odds it might be a sign that they are not forming a strong connection.  It is through disagreements with siblings that children learn important life lessons, which can ultimately bring them closer together.

Though some sibling rivalry is inevitable and healthy, there are some ways that you can ease the tension when fights break out and help the children learn to work together to avoid some of the arguments.

Individualize your children – including multiples. Each child is a completely different person, with strengths, weaknesses and things they love.  Be sure to encourage that individuality in them.  Spend one-on-one time regularly with each child, letting him choose what you do together.  Point out the areas in his life that you see him excelling in as well as the things you see him struggling with.  Encourage him when he sees his sibling doing something better than him, pointing out the things he does really well too.

Model how to compromise and encourage your child to make concessions with you from time to time.  As you go through your day to day life, work with your child to make small but noticeable compromises with him, pointing out what you are doing.  Then, when he does not get his way, point out that he is compromising too.

Let them each have their own space and their own toys that they are not required to share with anyone.   To a parent, the toys collected by children may seem like junk, but to a child they are the things that help form his identity.   It is important that your child has a safe place to be when he senses that he needs to be alone.   If you sense that a child is under a lot of stress, you can encourage him to walk away from his siblings for a while and play or read by himself instead of letting the situation escalate into a fight.

Avoid continuously separating your children to fix the disagreement.  It can be very tempting to do this in order to keep the peace.  However, separating your bickering children every time they are in the middle of a fight sends the wrong message.  It tells your child that when he does not get along with his sibling, he does not have to deal with the dispute.  There may be times it is appropriate for your children to spend some time apart for a short time, however, you must always bring them back together to discuss the situation when they have calmed down.

Try to avoid entering into the argument.  The majority of the time, the best thing to do during a sibling fight is to let them work it out.  Chances are one or all of your children will try to drag you into the discussion.  If you do get involved, limit your participation to words of advice.  Give suggestions to each child on how he might approach the situation.  “Have you tried to offer Lilly a different toy to see if she would be ok with it?” or “It might be a good idea to explain to Joey why you really want to use that toy”.

Discipline physical fighting as you would if the child got physical with another child outside of the family.  If your child was on the playground and physically hurt another child, what would you do?  It is no different when he hurts one of his siblings.  If physically hurting another child is inappropriate for your child to do, that includes hurting his sibling.

Avoid asking your older child to be your eyes for your younger child.  This causes tattling.  This starts out innocently enough when your children are younger, but it can quickly turn into your older children feeling he has the right to tell you every tiny transgression your younger child is up to.  This causes resentment and frustration for everyone.

Don’t takes sides or make favorites.  Although you would not make favorites intentionally, often times it can seem to your older children that you let your younger children get away with more.  Hold everyone to the same standard.  Also, avoid seeming to agree with one child more in an argument.  Instead, repeat each child’s point of view out loud.  “I see that Lilly feels she was playing with that toy before Joey.  Joey you feel like when Lilly put it down, it meant she was done with it.  How can we work this out so everyone is happy?”

Don’t just listen to the “loudest” of the group and assume everyone else is in the wrong. Parents frequently hear loud cries from another room and jump to the conclusion that the child that was yelling was wronged.  Find out the whole story before assuming this, because often children learn to use this to their advantage.

Parents would do well to take a deep breath and a step back in the midst of sibling rivalry, realizing that somewhere down the road these children who are at each other’s throats right now can eventually be best friends.  This is not in spite of the fighting they are doing now, but because of the fighting they are doing now.  Arguing can build character, cooperation, understanding, compromising skills and closeness if given the support and encouragement to help them work it out. The very best thing you can say to your children when they argue is, “I believe you are smart enough to work together and solve this problem.”

4 Tips to Foster an Attitude of Sharing

By Marcia Hall

From siblings to best friends, children have a difficult time learning to share. It is a concept that may not fully develop until late into grade school, if then.  However, there are a few ways you can help your child develop an attitude of sharing.

Model sharing the things that are important to you with others.  Often, parents expect their child to share toys, games and even attention with other children.  This is usually expected because it was expected of them when they were children.  However, adults rarely share the things that are really important to them.  Do most adults go around loaning their cars, jewelry, clothes, homes, electronics and even their time to others?  Your child sees that when an adult owns something it belongs to her, and she gets to decide when she feels like sharing it and when she does not feel like sharing it.  This mindset then transfers into your child’s life.  He rightfully feels that when something belongs to him because it was given as a gift or purchased with his own money, that it belongs to him.  When he sees his parent being generous with what she has, he will think that sharing is a part of life.  If he sees his parent unwilling to share the things she owns, big and little, then he is going to be less willing to share his own things.

Don’t make him share everything.  When parents tell their child that they “must” share the toy with someone else, it stimulates a primal instinct everyone has.  Instead of helping the child to learn to share, making a child share his toys actually causes him to want to share it and other toys less.  He becomes afraid that at any moment you will come in and make him give up the thing that (at least right now) means everything to him.  Instead, allow there to be at least a few toys that he has the right to choose when and with whom he will share.  This gives the child just enough control over the situation to loosen his grip on the toy.  When he has the independence to share it or not, he will eventually be willing to share with others.

Keep a set of toys that belong to you and share those with him and friends he has over.  The big problem with not making your child share his toys is that it means that his friends or siblings do not have toys to play with together.  To solve this problem you can create a family toy box.  Everything in that toy box belongs to you – the adult.  Because of this, you get to decide who the toys are shared with and when the toys are shared.  You, of course, are very generous with the sharing of this toy box, and let not only your child but any other child that comes over to play use the toys.  This will help in a few ways. It will help your child not feel so tense about sharing his own toys, which can actually help him want to share his.  It will also provide a great example of sharing for your child.  He will begin to learn that sharing can make play more fun.

Help him to see that when he shares with others, others are more willing to share with him and that it is more fun to share.  There are a lot of ways you can help your child see this.  Utilize moments when you see him sharing with siblings or with other children. Tell him that you see how well he is sharing and that you are glad he is able to have fun with someone else.  Positive reinforcement is the best way to help your child learn a new life lesson. When playing with your child, talk about how much fun it is when you have people to play with instead of having to play by yourself.  Make mention of sharing every time you see it in the world, whether in books, on the playground, on the TV or in your house.

Sharing is a very difficult habit to form in children.  The truth is that most adults have not perfected this either.  But life is much better when children learn to share what belongs to them, and it is incredibly rewarding as a parent to watch your child engage and play well with other children.

How to Stop Siblings From Fighting

Sibling fighting, while inevitable, can turn your household into what feels like a war zone. Your children bickering, teasing, poking, and all around annoying each other can seem like an endless stress cycle. There are, however, some ways that you can lessen sibling fighting and create a more peaceful, cooperative environment.

Set strong, clear boundaries for acceptable behavior and stick to them. Sibling fighting is one of those challenging behaviors that can quickly wear you down, so it’s hard to stick to your guns about what behavior is okay and what is not. But when it comes to getting to better behavior, consistency is the key.

A family meeting is the perfect opportunity to get everyone together and set the ground rules for how family members should treat each other. Everyone, both children and adults, should have a say in the rules. When your children are part of creating the rules they’re much more likely to follow them. Talk about what respectful language looks like, what type of touching is welcomed (e.g. hugging, tickling) and what type is not allowed (e.g. hitting, poking), and how they’re going to solve disputes. When the rules have been agreed on by everyone, outline what will happen if those rules aren’t followed. Then write them down and include visual cues to help kids remember.

Teach your children problem solving skills. Giving your kids the tools they need to solve their own problems will really pay off in the home environment. Children fight most often when they don’t feel they have better options. They get angry, frustrated, impatient, or hurt and they lash out. When you give your children the tools to talk about how they feel, to think about how others think and feel about a situation, and to come up with solutions that work for everyone involved, you’re giving them the power to stop fighting and start cooperating.

Help your children understand the different perspectives of their siblings. Children think everyone sees things the same way they do. They need help understanding that others often see and feel things very differently. What’s funny to one child may feel like hurtful bullying to his brother. What’s no big deal to one child may be a huge deal to his sister. What seems like a logical solution to one child may seem completely unfair to her sister. Help children express how they feel to their siblings in respectful language (e.g. “It hurts my feelings when you say I’m a klutz”, “I don’t want to share my new game with you because it’s my favorite toy and I’m afraid you’ll break it”). Help children process what’s been shared with them and encourage them to try and see things from the other perspective (e.g. “Can you think of a time when someone called you a name and, instead of it being funny, it hurt your feelings?”, “Can you imagine how hard it would be for you to share your favorite game if you were afraid it would get broken and you wouldn’t be able to play with it anymore?”). Seeing things through another person’s eyes builds empathy and increases sensitivity to what others feel and need. That’s a great way to help siblings stop fighting and start supporting each other.

Don’t take sides. Finding ways to solve the problem, not assigning blame, is the best way to move past an issue. When you try and figure out who did what and who did it first you get stuck in the past. When you start from where you are and work on ways to move forward, you take charge of the future. You rarely have all of the information to know who’s really at fault anyway. You may see your middle child push your older child as they walk into the room but it may be in response to something the older child did in the other room. Only they know the full story and they each see it through their own eyes.

Focus on what you want them to do instead of what you don’t want them to do. It’s easy to talk about what you don’t want: don’t hit, don’t push, don’t hog the TV, don’t grab his toys, don’t tease. It’s harder, but so much more productive, to talk about what you do want: use your words instead of your hands, decide together on a TV program, ask when you want a turn with a toy, talk respectfully. Not only does positive language change the overall tone of a situation, it teaches children to focus on what they’re doing right instead of what they’re doing wrong. Kids who feel good about themselves are much more likely to follow rules and treat others kindly and fairly.

Sibling fighting is typical and can’t be avoided completely. However you can get to a place where your children get along more often than they fight, and where they truly enjoy being around each other.