Sibling bickering. It’s enough to make you want to trade in a child for a toaster or something! The only foolproof solution I’ve heard is to only have one child. Bickering is a major frustration for most parents. It is not actually damaging to children if it stays at the bickering level. In fact, like most competition among kids it can serve a purpose. Bickering can build emotional IQ and improve social awareness. But if it escalates to bullying or antagonizing, it can create patterns that will repeat in their future relationships.
The best solution to stop sibling bickering is to find a balance between having peace and micromanaging your children.
What does “a peaceful home” mean in your family? Start by watching the grown-up interactions for a few days. Do the adults in the house bicker or tease or hassle each other as a part of daily life? These are real forms of communication that some people use. If the adults in your house do this, the kids will too. If the adults in your house don’t do this, the kids will anyway but it may be a little easier to stop.
It may be that you like the back and forth discussions but you don’t like the crying and hurt feelings that often result. If that is the case – you don’t mind the bickering but you do mind the emotional fallout – there is a solution.
Ways To Stop Sibling Bickering:
1. Name the behavior with your kids. “THIS (that thing you just said and then you said back, etc) is bickering. You do this a lot.”
2. Ask them to decide if this type of communication is ok with them.
3. Point out the results to them so they notice the connection.
4. If it is NOT ok with either one, then it needs to happen less. Point out that it won’t stop all the way, but that it takes two people to get into this pattern. If one doesn’t like the tone of voice a sibling uses, he does not have to respond, and may walk away or talk to you about it. That’s not ignoring, that is silently requiring respect. By the way – this is a great lesson for kids to internalize before their friends start to treat each other badly.
5. If it IS ok with both kids that they bicker sometimes, make a rule: No tattling about bickering.
This is like the wrestling rule at our house. You don’t have to wrestle but if you choose to do so, no one gets in trouble if you get hurt.
6. Now do your very best to stay out of it their disagreements. Their relationships are theirs, and as long as they are safe in those relationships, micromanaging them will not only make you crazy but also do nothing to improve their interactions or adult connections. (I recommend ear plugs, or frequent flyer miles.)
If bickering is not acceptable to you at all, you may be able to remove it from your hearing. I doubt you’ll be able to remove it from your kids’ relationships entirely, but if you succeed you should quit your job and write a book!
Sit down as a family. Talk about the words you want to use to define your home and family, like peace and safety and respect. Ask them for some words. Then talk about changing the communication to get closer to those goals. Define bickering. This way they will understand why this is such a big deal to you. Set some guidelines (see #4 above) and some consequences for ignoring the guidelines. Tell them you’ll all try things out for a week and meet again to see what’s working.
Please let me know how it goes for you and your family! Do you have any other suggestions for diminishing the bickering?
Guest post by Dr. G, a Board Certified family physician, mother of four, and a professional parenting speaker and writer. Her signature individualized workshop, “How to Get the Behavior You Want, Without Being the Parent You Hate” captivates parents through her humorous straight talk, which lifts the guilt out of parenting.
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