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Zen Mama Wannabe » Blog Archive » Help with Sibling Bickering
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Help with Sibling Bickering

Do your kids bicker with the intensity of a presidential debate?  Do you feel your head about to explode as their voices get louder and their tone gets rougher?  What do you do to combat the family battles played out frequently on a daily basis and keep the peace in your household?

This is one area this Zen Mama Wannabe feels at such a loss with.  The sounds of my dear sweet children bickering with each other back and forth can give me a pounding headache in three second flat.  I shudder at the unkind words that come out of their little mouths – the hostility and contempt that flares up in my sweet darlings from seemingly out of nowhere.  It grates on my nerves like nails on a chalkboard and I want to squash it down immediately (which means I jump in sometimes when I perhaps shouldn’t).  I am discovering the hard way that I have no patience for this type of behavior.  So what can I do?  What do YOU do?

One of the first things I try when I have a situation I need help with is to do some research.  I comb my bookcases and find I have 3 books in my personal library that offer help with this issue:

Siblings Without Rivalry

How to Help Your Children Live Together So You Can Live Too

by Adele Faber & Elaine Mazlish

This one and their other classic How to Talk So Kids Will Listen & Listen So Kids Will Talk are books every parent should have.  They offer good interpersonal skills – not just for parents dealing with kids, but really when interacting with anyone.  They provide you with a foundation to build on, and they give a lot of attention to ways of treating children while still being fair and still showing respect. Just as in their other books, they are big on acknowledging feelings, reflecting back a child’s point of view, and coming up with solutions together.  All great techniques, that can work – it just feels at times that the process takes so long and in the heat of battle, I rarely have the time or patience for all that.

“Mom, Jason’s Breathing On Me!”

 The Solution to Sibling Bickering

 by Anthony E. Wolf, Ph.D. 

This is book I go to the most when needing a quick refresher on this topic.  First of all, I love the title (my daughter has actually said that in a complaint about her brother!) and Dr. Wolf spells out 3 simple (I like simple) “rules” for parents to follow: 

Rule 1: Don’t Take Sides
(Never intervene on one side or the other unless there is possible harm).
Rule 2: Act Fast – or Not at All
(The point at which to intervene is when you start to get irritated.)
Rule 3: Don’t Listen
(Do not listen – ever – except where there is possibility of harm).

This morning while piling in the car to drive to school, I wish I had remembered Rule 2.  My daughter needed to get her backpack out of the back seat.  This was not a real need – she doesn’t even use a backpack – but whatever, I humored her and let her crawl back and get it – even though we were running a tiny bit late and needed to hurry (note to self: next time we are in a hurry, I might want to re-think this approach).  She got the pack, put it next to her seat and started fastening her seat belt. Then BAM! – something happened that involved my son, because the next thing I know she is screaming his name and yelling at him.  We've gone from 0 to 60 in less than a few seconds — and I haven't even left the driveway!

I turned around and saw a sheepish look on my son's face (I think he knocked the backpack off the seat onto the floor because it was too close to his personal space) but now she is CRYING loudly (you would have thought he chucked it out the window the way she was carrying on) NOT buckling in her car seat like I needed her to do so we could start driving, and now we are running even later. 

So what happens? – I snap!  Her crying is hurting my poor brain that hasn’t even had a full cup of coffee yet and these shenanigans are the last thing we I need right now.  Not sure how I could have intervened before it escalated in to all that, but it’s definitely something I need to keep in mind.  I do agree with the premise that if it’s going to escalate into something that will drive me crazy, I’m better off to nip it in the bud. 


Win the Whining War & Other Skirmishes

 A family peace plan

 by Cynthia Whitham, MSW. 

This is called a “step-by-step guide to increasing cooperation and reducing conflict with children ages 2-12.”  The key message in this book praise the behaviors you like while ignoring those you don’t like.  It is an easy-to-read (short chapters) common sense guide – and a good one to have especially if you have young children.  But sometimes I feel we shoot beyond the “praise one child, ignore the other” rather quickly in our sibling battles. 

I did use this technique this morning (yes – as you can tell it was QUITE a morning) when my daughter asked for help opening her yogurt container at breakfast.  My son volunteered to help her (Wow!) but she said NO – because of course it had to be Mommy that did it.  He offered again (since I was middle of multi-tasking in the kitchen and couldn’t get over to her at that second) but she snapped NO! STAY AWAY (ah – don’t you just love the mornings).  So I praised my son for offering to help so nicely, and chose to ignore my daughter’s less than polite behavior.  Ultimately was that really effective?  I am not sure.  But I am willingly to try any method I can to keep the bickering to a minimum. 

What techniques do you use effectively?  Any magic trick up your sleeve?  I am going to keep trying a little of this and a combination of that in hopes that I become a little more Zen-like (and less reactive).  Who knows, maybe a bit of that elusive calmness will rub off on them?!

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One Response to “Help with Sibling Bickering”

  1. Sheri Says:
    October 20th, 2008 at 3:07 pm

    This is a subject close to my heart,lol. Mine bicker so much, and the older they get, the louder it gets. Ignoring it helps, or at least helps me stay sane.

    Our problem is that my youngest is very sensitive, the oldest is not. So the older one snaps at his brother, and will do it on purpose, because eventually his brother will cry. We are working on the crying, because he has to realize it probably won’t get better anytime soon, and it’s not worth getting upset over. But it’s taken over our household, every meal, every family outing, they bicker. It’s crazy.

    I know I haven’t given you any good suggestions,lol, but I’m at my wits end too. Good luck, to both of us.

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