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Referee Sibling Rivalry

5 ways to stop kids' fighting

Sibling rivalry is inevitable, as is the prospect of your kids' fighting one an ongoing basis: "Mom, she’s touching me!" "He’s looking out my window!" "Tell her to get out of my room!" Even on the best of days, sibling squabbles can make you want to pull your hair out. Add in busy, stressful schedules, and coming home to constant conflict can be too much to handle.

What can you do when your family room more closely resembles a war zone than the relaxing retreat it should be? You can’t force your children to be best friends, but you can create a (relatively) harmonious home by laying out these five clear-cut, non-negotiable rules and enforce them — period.

  1. No yelling. Instate what parenting expert Michele Borba calls a “vow of yellibacy.” When tempers flare and feelings are hurt, the volume decibel tends to rise, causing arguments to escalate fast. This rule goes for you, too. Parents have to set an example for staying calm and collected when they are upset or angry. When cooler heads prevail, arguments get resolved much more quickly, in a way that is less stressful for everyone.”
  2. No taking without asking. Property ownership can be a big deal to little people and a particularly touchy issue for tweens and teens who don’t want their iPhones pilfered. Insist that the owner's permission must be granted before borrowing, using or taking anything. This will cut down on conflict and make it easier to resolve any arguments. If permission was not asked for and granted, you know who broke the rule.
  3. No hurtful behaviors. With bullies and mean girls running rampant in school, it’s important that your home >be a safe haven free from hurtful behaviors. Set a strict policy: Name-calling and hitting will not be tolerated under any circumstances and will result in a consequence. While hitting and hurtful words are sure to happen among siblings, it’s up to you to make the kids understand that you will not tolerate such actions under any circumstance.
  4. No involvement without evidence. Kids are quick to run to a parent to referee their disagreements. If your kids seek your arbitration for an incident you didn’t witness or have any evidence about, step away. Instead, suggest that they use rock, paper, scissors to resolve the problem. This prevents you from having to choose sides or take one kid’s word over another’s — and it will also teach them to work things out for themselves.
  5. No tattling. The inevitable sibling tattling often breeds resentment and becomes a continuing conflict in many households. Keeping a “no tattling” policy can be crucial. Let your kids know that unless they are telling you something to keep their sibling out of trouble or prevent him from being hurt, you aren’t going to listen. Before any tattling gets well under way, ask “Is this a tattle?” If the answer is yes, send the perpetrator on her way.

No matter what you do, don’t drive yourself crazy with unrealistic expectations for nonstop harmony. Your kids won’t get along every minute of the day and they might not even like each other all the time, but they do have to respect each other’s feelings and be considerate of the need for empathy and stability in the family.

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