Be a Parent and Not a Referee: Simple Tips to End the Fighting

It’s the soundtrack to parenthood: the battles, the bickering, the rivalries. Mom- she’s touching me! He’s siblings...looking out my window! Tell her to get out of my room! Even on the best of days these sibling squabbles can make you want to pull your hair out. Add in busy schedules and mounting stress and coming home to conflict and contention can just be too much to handle. So what can you do when your living room more closely resembles a war zone rather than the relaxing retreat that it should be?

Though you can’t force your siblings to be best friends, you can get a handle on their squabbles and create a (relatively) harmonious home.

As you probably know already, just saying ‘You kids stop your fighting!’ isn’t going to cut it. Kids respond to firm boundaries and clear cut directives. So what you have to do is lay out some non-negotiable rules and enforce them…period.

There are four simple house rules that will result in a (temporary, at least) cease-fire on all the fighting. The key to successful implementation: consistency, consistency, consistency! (Did I say consistency?)

  • No yelling. Instate a ‘vow of yellibacy’ in your house and enforce it. When tempers flare and feelings are hurt, the volume decimal tends to rise, causing arguments to quickly escalate and get out of hand. Just remember: the ‘no yelling’ rule isn’t only for the kids, it goes for you too. Parents have to set the example for staying calm and collected when they are upset or angry as well. This should be rule number one. All family members must use calm voices only—no yelling allowed. And if talks get heated, anyone can make a time-out hand sign hinting that he needs to cool down. When cooler heads prevail, arguments get resolved much more quickly and in a way that is less stressful for everyone.
  • No taking without asking. Property ownership can be a BIG deal to little ones, and the time honored “Mooom, she’s touching my stuff!” complaint can be frequent in multi-child households. This can be a particularly touchy issue for tweens and teens- especially if there is a younger sibling in the house. Older siblings can get pretty upset when their iPads and laptops are confiscated by tiny sticky (literally!) fingers. Insist that permission of the owner must be granted before borrowing, using, or taking any property. Not only will this cut down on the conflict, but it will also make it easier to resolve any arguments that may come up. If permission was not asked for and granted, then you know who broke the rule. Simple as that.
  • No hurtful behaviors. With bullies and mean girls running the schools, it’s important that you set the standard for you home to be a safe haven for your kids. It should be a place free from hurtful behaviors. Set a strict policy: name-calling and hitting will not be tolerated, under any circumstances and they will result in a consequence. Tolerating hurtful behavior inside your home only encourages your kids to display it when you aren’t around as well- and that’s not a character trait any parent wants to encourage. This rule should stand for each child in your home, no matter what age they are. The consequences may differ according to the age group: for a younger child, a display of hurtful behavior will result in a time-out. If your child is older, then it means the loss of a privilege. While hitting and hurtful words are sure to happen when it comes to siblings, it’s up to you to make them understand that you will not tolerate it under any circumstance.
  • No involvement without evidence. If you are the parent of siblings, you’ve probably also spent a good deal of time playing referee. Kids are quick to run to a parent’s aid to help settle their disagreements and if you weren’t a witness to the incident itself, then it can be hard to know exactly what to do.  You should get involved in the conflict only if you actually saw or heard it occur. This will help to keep you neutral and will encourage your kids to adopt strategies to help them work things out for themselves. If your kids seek your help, but you don’t have any evidence, then step away. Instead, suggest that they use Rock, Paper, Scissors to work out their problem. This prevents you from having to choose sides or take one kid’s word over another’s—and it will also teach them to work things out for themselves. After all, you won’t always be there to help them resolve their problems, so it’s better that they acquire the skills at home so they are ready when the time comes.

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Dr Borba’s book The Big Book of Parenting Solutions: 101 Answers to Your Everyday Challenges and Wildest Worries, is one of the most comprehensive parenting book for kids 3 to 13. This down-to-earth guide offers advice for dealing with children’s difficult behavior and hot button issues including biting, tantrums, cheating, bad friends, inappropriate clothing, sex, drugs, peer pressure and much more. Each of the 101 challenging parenting issues includes specific step-by-step solutions and practical advice that is age appropriate based on the latest research. The Big Book of Parenting Solutions is available at amazon.com

About the Author

Michele Borba, Ed.D. is an internationally renowned consultant, educational psychologist and recipient of the National Educator Award who has presented workshops to over a million participants worldwide. She is a recognized expert in parenting, bullying, youth violence, and character development and author of 22 books including her upcoming release, UnSelfie: Why Empathetic Kids Succeed in Our All-About Me World. She has appeared over 130 times on the TODAY show and is a frequent expert on national media including Dateline, The View, Dr. Oz, Anderson Cooper, CNN, Dr. Drew, and Dr. Phil. Visit her daily blog on www.micheleborba.com, or follow her on twitter @micheleborba.Dr. Borba is a member of the PedSafe Expert team

Comments

One Response to “Be a Parent and Not a Referee: Simple Tips to End the Fighting”

  1. Great advice! The last point reminded me of what my mom always told my 2 brothers and myself when we went to her to resolve disputes, ‘don’t ask me to pick the favorite child’. She was right, that was kind of at the base of what we were asking. With my own kids I’ve found it effective to say ‘I didn’t see everything that happened, if I have to get involved everyone gets a time out. Can you figure it out?’ Answer is always ‘yes’! Now if I could just keep my patience past 7pm!
    .-= Rebecca Wear Robinson´s last blog ..Should 4-year olds teach swimming? =-.

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