| As you can imagine, sibling conflict is inevitable because unlike other relationships, your kids don’t choose each other. They are “thrown into” a relationship. Some siblings have lots of conflicts, some have none. Some have conflict with one sibling and not another. But all siblings have conflict. There is a way to avoid it but it is too late if you have more than one child.|
Your children will have conflict just like you and your husband will. It is inevitable.
Remember, you cannot mandate that your children have affection for one another. However, the good news is that most siblings, like my oldest and youngest son, put their childhood differences behind, learn to appreciate each other’s gifts and talents, and become as close as their personalities will allow; and that is okay.
Even though you can’t stop sibling conflict, you can take steps to effectively contain the level of conflict.
Create a “Do Not Disturb the Family Peace” rule: The children can have conflict, but they must obey the following three stipulations (a) keep it down (b) not engage in physical aggression of any kind toward one another (c) not tattle on one another, even in instances of physical aggression. Put the rule on an index card on your refrigerator, labeled “DO NOT DISTURB THE FAMILY PEACE.”
Be sure to include the three stipulations outlined above.Use the “3 Strikes Your Out” system: On any given day, the first time the rule is broken you simply identify the infraction and call a strike. “You’re disturbing the family (or me or us) with your conflict, so I’m calling a strike. If one of the kids begins to complain about the other, you say,”That’s tattling, and I’m calling another strike.”It is important to note this very carefully. There are only 3 strikes available for all the children. So the strike counts against however many children you.
Be aware, even if a third child is not involved, he too is part of the strike. He too will incur the discipline to follow. Peer pressure is great!
However, if the third child does not normally stir the pot of conflict, leave him out. This is important. When the rule is broken, it’s vitality important that you make no attempt to find out what happened or why the kids are arguing. Nor should you make an effort to mediate. Just issue the penalty and walk away. When the last strike is called, the children go to their respective rooms for the remainder of the day, and they will go to bed early. If you’re going to be confining them to their rooms, it’s helpful to reduce the “entertainment value” of the room beforehand. Make favorite things off-limits. The next day starts fresh.
If this strike method does not resonate with you, you could consider using the “Conference Room”:
Still put the “Do Not Disturb the Family Peace” document on the fridge.When the rule is broken, put the offending parties into the “Conference Room” for 15 minutes while directing them to use the time to try and solve whatever problem has precipitated the incident. The room should be (a) small (b) boring. A small bathroom usually works. Set a timer outside the “Conference Room.” When the time goes off ask the kids, “Is the problem solved?” They will tell you that it is, even if it isn’t. That’s fine. Let them out and walk away. There is a very slim chance that they will tell you that it is not resolved. If they actually confess this, then repeat the above.
Whichever method you choose, you are taking yourself out of the equation and putting responsibility for solving the conflict on the children. The children learn to solve their conflicts without your intervention. This is a skill that will carry over nicely in situations later in their lives, including their marriages. It keeps children from the victim mentality because you are out of the way. If you are constantly involved, you can unwittingly create sibling rivalry and interfere with children’s ability to learn the skill of conflict management.
Certified Leadership Parenting Coach