The day-to-day bickering between siblings leaves many moms frazzles and begging for peace. Whether your kids fight daily or only occasionally, the way you respond teaches them how to handle conflict. Playing referee or resolving the arguments for your kids doesn't give them the life skills they need when they encounter conflict outside the home. With practice and guidance, your kids can learn to keep the peace themselves.
Establish and enforce family rules relating to respect to reduce situations that are likely to cause arguments. These rules might include asking permission before borrowing another person's belongings and not saying mean things. Post the rules where everyone can see them. If your kids cannot read yet, find pictures to illustrate the rules and post them. Talk about your rules frequently to remind your kids how to treat each other.
Teach your kids conflict resolution skills, notes Frank E. Bowers, Ph.D. in an article for the parenting.org website. You can teach your kids these skills by modeling good conflict resolution skills yourself. To do this, when you feel yourself getting angry at your kids, take a deep breath to help calm yourself down. Make sure your kids see you do this -- and let them know that you are doing this. Next, explain to them why you're angry. Then, you can brainstorm ideas with them to solve the problem. Choose a resolution together and acknowledge that the problem is solved with a hug, handshake or apology. Practice conflict resolution skills with your kids when there isn't an actual problem through role playing so your kids understand the steps.
Tune in when you notice your kids beginning to argue. Monitoring the situation helps you decide when to step in and referee. For example, stop any physical fighting right away. However, if there's no physical violence, let them try to come up with solutions on their own without your intervention.
Remind your kids to use the conflict resolution skills you taught them. If tempers are flaring, suggest that the siblings take a break to calm down and think about why they are upset. When both kids are calm, point them to the second resolution step, which is telling each other why they are upset. Have the kids use "I statements," such as, "I feel angry when you throw my stuffed animals all around and hide them from me."
Offer some ideas to solve the problem if your kids can't come to an agreement on their own. For example, you might say, "Instead of fighting over the same puzzle, why don't you each pick a different puzzle? Or, you could work together by sorting out the edge pieces first and taking turns putting them in place."
Enforce consequences if your kids fail to resolve the argument on their own. For example, if the kids fight over a particular toy, put that toy in time out so no one can play with it for a set amount of time.