Today we are taking a break from our month of food – and how to get your young child to eat it – and answering a listener Q&A. When Ruth asked her question, I knew that I wanted to bring it up on the show ASAP because, if you have more than one kid, you have sibling rivalry and that didn’t seem like it could wait until April!
Ruth asks: “Hi, I would love some advice as to how to reduce the amount of sibling fights in our home. It seems to be constant! My boys are nearly 3 in nearly 5. It seems that they both have a hard time expressing their feelings of frustration in a respectful/nonthreatening tone without physical contact. This makes everyone feel tense and is putting strain on parental-child relationships also. Many thanks, Ruth”
Press play to hear my advice for Ruth about this all-to-common family problem! Click here or go to weturnedoutokay.com/061 for notes on the show, as well as the links to resources that I recommend for Ruth.
First of all, anybody with more than one child needs the amazing and fantastic book Siblings Without Rivalry by Adele Faber and Elaine Mazlish. When our second child was born, this great book fell into my hands and I feel so lucky about that! Adele and Elaine’s writing style brings you right in, they conduct workshops with parents so they have a huge range of sibling issues to talk about – and figure out how to handle; they even teach the principles through comics at the end of each chapter. I bet your local library has a copy, you could have it in your hands by the end of the day!
Next, back at the beginning of We Turned Out Okay I took what seemed to me to be the most important principles from Siblings Without Rivalry and turned them into an episode: click here or go to weturnedoutokay.com/007 to listen to When Siblings Attack: Stopping the Rivalry. I hope it’s helpful!
Finally, I share two pieces of advice that really helped me in containing the sibling rivalry. While I don’t have very much detail as to Ruth’s situation, the vast majority of 2 to 5-year-olds do have a very difficult time expressing their feelings of frustration without physical contact. They just don’t have the brain-speech connection required, they are just not mature enough to be able to express their frustrations without getting physical. These two ideas often helped me:
- to settle an ongoing altercation, get down on the kids’ level and lower your voice… I mean really lower it, almost to a whisper; now they have to stop fighting just hear you
- one key aspect discussed in Siblings Without Rivalry, that I also learned worked well as a teacher in a public preschool program: ignore the aggressor/perpetrator; give your attention to the child who’s hurt, whether in feelings or physically because this takes all the attention off of the perpetrator, who was really expecting your attention, even if it was in the form of “you’re in so much trouble” or “I told you to stop that;” negative attention, kids often seem to feel, is better than no attention at all… So support the “injured” child, with hugs or an ice pack or a positive redirection of some kind; often times you’ll find that the perpetrator stops with the negative behavior because it did not garner the attention he or she was hoping for
I hope that helps! Most importantly, Ruth and you too, if you have more than one kid and they’re fighting, I hope knowing that you are not alone and that every family goes through this is helpful. You will come through and we are here to help 🙂
Siblings Without Rivalry is widely available; I found my copy at a thrift shop for $.75! Click here to grab the book from Amazon, but maybe try your public library first, and then purchase the book to have over the long-term.
Click here or go to weturnedoutokay.com/007 to listen to my talk about Siblings Without Rivalry
Finally, while my forthcoming book Positive Discipline Ninja Tactics: Key Tools to Handle Every Temper Tantrum, Keep Your Cool, and Enjoy Life With Your Young Child does not have a chapter about siblings – that book (right up there 🙂 had already been written – it does have a ton of hacks and advice for helping you worry less and enjoy more every day with your young child… And it’s going to be free for three short days when it launches in Amazon, hopefully April 3! To sign up so you’ll know right away when it launches, to get your FAQs about Positive Discipline Ninja Tactics answered, and to get your free anti-tantrum infographic – perfect for printing out and placing on the fridge so that babysitters, grandparents, and older siblings all are on the same page about how to handle a tantrum in your home – just go to positivedisciplineninjatactics.com. I’m so excited to get this book into your hands!