The fighting that can go on between siblings can drive even the calmest parents crazy. What we may not realize is that we often get in the middle of the fray and ask questions that can exacerbate the problem.
Cleaning up from dinner: Why cant you kids just clean up dinner? Why does everything need to be a fight?
Arguing over the TV: Why do you always have to argue over the TV? Why do you guys always have to make a big deal out of nothing? Now no one is going to have a chance to watch!
Privacy: Why can’t you just stay out of each other’s room and leave each other alone? Why do you always have to start up with each other?
When we are dealing with kids and their siblings, we want to avoid asking “why”. We want to move kids from conflict to resolution. We can do that by naming the problem calmly and asking them questions that help them think in terms of finding solutions and compromise.
- You guys are having trouble figuring out how to clean up. You feel like you end up doing more and you feel like you end up doing more. You don’t feel that is fair. What would seem fair to both of you? How can we clean up from dinner in a way that you both feel would work for you?
- You sound like you are having some trouble deciding on a TV show. You both want to watch different programs. What would help you decide? Can you guys figure out some sort of compromise?
- It sounds like you guys are having problems respecting each other’s territory. Max, you just wanted to borrow a book, and you don’t think you need to ask for permission to come into Sara’s room to do that. Sara, you think Max should always ask permission before he enters the room. I think we need to figure out some clear rules on respecting each others privacy. Do you have time to talk about it now?”
What if you don’t have time for a long problem solving session? You can expedite the process by telling them what they need to do. But don’t forget to suggest that you meet later on. Let them know you want to hear both of their opinions and ideas on how they can get along and solve their problems peacefully:
- The dinner table needs to be cleaned. Tonight we don’t have time for negotiations. Sara you do the silverware. Max you do the plates. Tomorrow we will discuss how we are going to make dinner clean up more manageable and calmer.
- Mom and I need to go in 5 minutes. We need to figure something out quick or else there will be no TV tonight. Lets make sure to make a time where we can talk about this at length. But right now, we need to figure out a speedy solution!
- Sara, Max is going to take the book right now because he has got to get to school. Max, and you too, Sara, make some time in your schedule tonight so we can give this problem the attention it deserves.
Moving kids from conflict to solution can be a long and arduous process. Everyone wants a peaceful home. Asking the right questions can help.