This tip isn’t sexy, but it’s how you create change. My BEST tip for sibling fighting is right here!
It’s not a gimmick or 30 second hack.
But if you’re looking for tips for sibling fighting, this is the post for you! The bickering, fighting over toys, blaming each other, nonstop touching. I know it well. This is my top tip for reducing sibling fighting.
#1 Tip for Sibling Fighting: identify the skill gap and teach replacement behaviors to fill that gap.
Ok detective moms/teachers, it’s time to get curious!! Identify the source of the conflict and consider what skill gap is present for your kids. Here are questions to ask yourself: What do they need to be able to do navigate this problem? What are they struggling to say/express to their sibling? Is there an underlying motive behind the behavior I’m not seeing? How can we meet that need and teach to that gap?
Once you identify the skill gap, you can teach to that gap and build up your child’s communication or problem solving skills in that specific area.
Here are two examples:
Child is making frequent antagonizing or hurtful comments to sibling.
Skill gap: self-regulation skills, ability to keep hurtful thoughts to self. (This is one possible skill gap – there could be others, too!)
What to teach: “When we speak we can say things that are helpful or hurtful. Before we speak we can think, is this helpful or hurtful? You can always come and tell me privately, but I won’t let you say hurtful things to your brother. If you’re having those thoughts, touch your brain with your finger. This is a special signal that will let me know you’re having that thought and keeping it in your brain.” (Praise child for using the replacement behavior!)
Constant fighting over toys.
Skill gap: child is struggling ask for a turn with a toy or wait for a turn
What to teach: focus on turn taking rather than trying to teach forced sharing. Teach that it’s OK to still be using something or to want alone time with the toy!) We don’t have to stop what we’re doing because someone else wants what we have. Teach kids to ask, “Are you using this? Can I have a turn when you’re done?” Or respond, “yes, I’m still using this right now. I’ll let you know when I’m finished.”
This method builds trust with one another. The child with the toy can trust that the adult respects their play (which is learning!) and will give them space to finish. Children trust one another that they’ll find the person when done with the toy. This is also less stress on the adult – the rules are clear and logical. We’re not in charge of managing forced sharing and can stop playing referee by teaching kids HOW to ask for a turn next.
- Other ideas for teaching to the skill gap:
- Make a book (called a social story) that walks through the situation and shows how to handle the problem appropriately.
- Teach kids explicitly what to say in the situation.
- Model and Role Play together (practice the scenario in happy, low stress times)
- Create a visual reminder you can keep posted with the simple steps to follow
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Thank you for reading, and I hope you enjoy this tip for sibling fighting!
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