5 tactics to deal with your fighting kids

Ways to turn the frowns of your quibbling kids upside down, so they’ll get along better with each other.

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No parent wants to be accused of favouring one child over another when they are resolving their kids’ quarrels. Still, freelance researcher Ratna Damayanti, mum to Eisya, 9 months, Adam, 6 and Eve, 8, points out, “It is hard to be 100 per cent fair 100 per cent of the time.”

          Remember, siblings bicker, that’s what they do. However, constant arguments, if not settled amicably, can sometimes lead to rivalry. Adds Daniel Koh, a psychologist at Insights Mind Centre, “Usually, if the child is independent, he might decide to run away when it gets unbearable at home, since to stay is meaningless and loveless. The kid might then grow to become angry, untrusting, lonely and depressed.”

         Such negative feelings can balloon into bigger issues in adulthood ― low self-esteem, an unwillingness to love, anxiety about being alone ― which leads to an inability to build a positive relationship. Worse, your child might end up being in a dysfunctional relationship and get used by others while seeking acceptance (yikes!).

        SmartParents gets advice from Koh and Vicky Ho, head of research and development at Focus on the Family on how to settle disputes between squabbling siblings.

1) Don’t ask “who did it?” 

Resolving the fight shouldn’t be about assigning blame. Ho urges parents to refrain from a lengthy discussion over “who started it”. If you fear that their quarrel might get physical, give the kids space and time to cool down before sitting them down for the talk. Explain your concerns about the constant bickering, then put in place new rules AND consequences. Once everyone agrees on the details, write these out clearly and display them in a visible spot ― a refrigerator or a wall in the living room. This way, your kiddos know what’s acceptable and what’s not (forgetting is no longer an excuse). 

Our children’s relationship with each other is affected by you and your husband’s different parenting styles. 

2) Get to the root of the matter

Is one of the siblings competing for your attention? Ho notes that children think the same way ― they want answers to basic questions like: “Who cares about me?” and “Does what I think or do matter?” Parents should try to organise regular one-on-one “dates” with each child to ensure that he or she gets your undivided attention. Stick to simple activities ― a visit to the playground or getting ice cream ― will reassure junior that you love and care for him.

3) Present a united front

Sometimes, your children’s relationship with each other is affected by you and your husband’s different parenting styles. So, it’s important to discuss your common goals with the children. Since children model their parents’ behaviour, any double standards when dealing with your children may have adverse effects on their ability to bond. Ho also advises that parents check how they speak to and behave with each other. Remember ― unity is power. If your little one realises that he can turn one parent against the other, he will.

Don’t waste your time just tackling tiffs, read on to find out how to get your kids to gel well together…