My six-year-old son and four-year-old daughter are constantly fighting. I’ve tried everything to try to get them to stop. I’m tired of continually playing referee to their fights and tired of the constant arguing. I need some help figuring out how I can help them get along. I want them to be friends.
What is going on when siblings are constantly arguing and fighting? When siblings continually fight with each other, they are telling their parents that they feel unsure of their place in the family and that their essential needs might not be met. Your kids are constantly wondering, “will my needs be met? Do my parents see and appreciate me for who I am?”
Parents often have the unrealistic belief that “siblings should be friends, that my kids should always be nice to each other. However, sibling dynamics are complex, and the more we can appreciate these dynamics, the better we can help our kids tolerate all of the feelings that come up. As our kids learn to tolerate the feelings, they will be able to regulate them better.
Our kids’ ability to tolerate all of the feelings their siblings bring up depends on how well we can use AVA (acknowledge, validate, and allow) those feelings in our child.
The more we connect with our kids when their feelings of anger, frustration, or jealousy toward their sibling come up, the less likely those feelings will explode out of them as physical or verbal aggression – hitting, insults or put-downs toward their sibling.
The best strategy for helping your kids develop a healthy sibling relationship is “connection-time.” This is dedicated time every day of 10 to 15 minutes for each child to spend with you.
Make sure each kid gets time alone with just them and you. Connection time is what it says, a time for you to connect with your child in their world. This means your phone is in the other room, and your other child isn’t present. During connection-time enter your child’s world and let your child direct the play. Your job is only to notice, reflect, imitate, and describe what your child is doing.
For more on how to initiate and do connection time, see my blog on connection time.
Remember, your goal is to spend some uninterrupted, distraction-free, quality time with each of your kids separately. If 15 minutes isn’t possible? Try less time, ten, five, or even two minutes.
Your kids’ behavior toward each other won’t improve overnight. However, once they feel loved, important, valued for who they are, and secure in their place within your family, improved behavior will eventually follow.