When a couple decides to become parents, they usually have the image of a harmonious family in mind. But then – arguing day in and day out? Welcome to everyday family life with two or more siblings. With a few helpful strategies, however, the “quarrelsome” can be calmed down.
We see the little ones playing with each other, have the idea that they help and support each other. And if there is a dispute, it should be resolved quickly. The fact that the shreds are constantly flying, sometimes at a loud volume and that we are repeatedly involved as “referees”, often drives parents to the edge of their strength.
Many children, especially up to the age of four, are often massively overwhelmed in conflict situations. Due to a lack of language skills, conflicts often lead to physical arguments. And although most parents feel helpless and powerless in such situations, they expect their children to calmly resolve the situation in conversation – that’s asking a lot!
What can you do to give your children meaningful support in conflict situations?
Parental response to sibling disputes is critical to developing a healthy ability to deal with conflict. The following strategies can help:
1. Accompaniment necessary and desired?
There are parents who always interfere directly or “stay out” of everything. Neither leads to the desired result: a healthy and positive relationship between the siblings. For this reason, it makes sense first and foremost to become consciously aware of whether the children need me right now or whether they will find a way to deal with the situation themselves.
Often the meddling comes more from the parental feeling of wanting to make themselves useful or to educate. So if you feel like you can’t bear it when the children are fighting with each other, just try to leave the scene (depending on the age of the children, e.g. go to another room, close the door, go for a walk). In many cases, the less we interfere, the better the children learn.
However, if you find that the children are unable to resolve their conflict constructively without support, or even become violent, then get involved and offer to help the children!
2. Identify needs
When the conflict has stopped, you can help the children find the “right” words.
First, it makes sense to identify the needs of both brawlers. Why are they arguing and what does each one want? You can ask your children, “What is it that you would like to have?”
Listen to both of their answers and refrain from judging them.
3. Communicate needs and find a solution
Check that your children have heard each other’s response and ask them to repeat the answer if necessary.
Then ask both children, “What can we do now to make you both happy?”
Ideally, the solution remains with the children, but as an adult you can make offers or suggestions if the children do not come up with anything.
Even if this type of conflict resolution may seem complex and not so easy to implement in everyday life, it is extremely worthwhile to integrate it into everyday family life. In this way, not only is the children’s independence and ability to deal with conflicts massively supported, but you as parents can be companions for all those involved without becoming overbearing.
Photo credit: fotosparrow/Shutterstock.com