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Six Suggestions to Stop Sibling Squabbles

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Any mom with two or more kids has seen sibling squabbles … from the toy snatching of toddlers to the bickering of older kids. And even though these interactions between sisters and brothers are inevitable, they can sometimes be hard to deal with.

But with a little discipline and consistency, they can also be stopped.

Here are six suggestions I’ve found effective:

1. Get involved. Rather than yelling at your kids to stop fighting, or hiding in the other room and pretending not to hear, kneel down with them and talk about why they’re arguing. Help them to learn to problem-solve. Did one of them snatch a toy from the other? Teach that child to learn to ask for the toy or wait his or her turn. Or maybe the other child needs to learn to share more. If your kids are older, have them consider how the other person is feeling. And help them to see both sides of an argument. I’ve found that, many times, the squabbles my kids have gotten into are excellent opportunities for character building.

2. Create space. If your kids are really young, the whole “talking about it” thing might not work so well. If this is the case, separating them when they’re fighting might be your best bet. You can still take the opportunity to tell them things like they shouldn’t be snatching, but after you do, have your kids go to separate rooms for a while. Sometimes, giving them space is all it takes to cool things down.

3. Get positive. If your kids are fighting, have them stop and give each other a compliment (if they’re old enough to do this). Or have them make each other a card. Even though they might start out through scrunched-up faces and frowns, by the time they’re done saying or writing something nice about each other, you’ll be amazed at the smiles that will sneak out. Compliments can go a long way in diffusing a fight.

4. Get loving. I stole this idea from a friend of mine: Tell your kids if they don’t stop fighting, they’re going to have to give each other a big hug. And if they don’t stop, have them do it. When I’ve taken this approach, it’s resulted in my kids getting silly and laughing—and pretty soon, they aren’t fighting at all.

5. Put them to work. Have your kids clean a room or do something like empty the dishwasher. It will take their minds off arguing and help them to be productive. The other day, when my son and daughter (ages eight and ten) were bickering, I gave them a warning and told them if they didn’t stop, they’d have to vacuum the entire upstairs. They didn’t stop. So they ended up vacuuming. And by the time they were done, they’d forgotten all about being mad at each other. They probably wouldn’t admit it, but I think they even had fun. And the house looked better, too.

6. Don’t listen to tattling. I think it only encourages more tattling, and it pits your kids against each another. When they come to you tattling, have them work it out themselves. Encourage them to stick up for each other, rather than set out to get each other in trouble. The rule we have in our house is, unless it’s is an emergency or a safety issue, they can’t tattle about it.

So the next time your kids are squabbling, take heart. If one approach doesn’t work the first time, try another. And remember there will be many moments of sweetness in between all the bickering.

So what about you? Have you tried any of these suggestions in the past? How have they worked? Do you have any other ideas or “sibling squabble” stories to share?

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