If you feel like you are constantly dealing with bickering and arguments, read on to discover some tips to make the conflict more manageable.
Let me just start this by telling you that (unfortunately for us parents), conflict is normal in children. Conflict is a child’s way of dealing with the complex developing emotions they are experiencing in childhood; it helps them to learn about the world around them and where they fit into it. Even the most patient and reasonable of children get into arguments with each other, and as frustrating as it is for us adults we have to accept that our children will have the occasional battle with each other. Siblings in particular are often the people children spend a significant amount of time with, share the most toys and resources with, and compete for their parents attention and affection with. Remember: it is actually healthy for children to express their likes and dislikes, their opinions and their frustrations with each other, as it means they are developing healthy boundaries and a good sense of self – you are doing something right!
But what happens when the arguing feels out of hand? How much is too much?! You know what is normal for your children, so if things are reaching fever pitch, here are my top tips to dealing with conflict:
- Take a deep breath. I would argue that I have started with possibly the most difficult step of all my tips – it is hard! But when you hear your kids arguing and your blood starts to boil, you have already lost control of your kids argument. Before you even do anything, take 10 deep breaths in and out; this will help you to feel calm and in control (and who knows, may even give them time to stop before you get involved… I know, unlikely). (For more support on keeping your cool when your child is being difficult, see my other article here https://parent-pop.com/2020/05/30/help-how-do-i-stay-calm-when-my-child-is-having-a-tantrum-a-parents-guide-to-keeping-your-cool-when-your-child-is-displaying-challenging-behaviour/ ).
- Try to stay neutral. You may have one child who is more argumentative than the other, a younger child who is more whiney, or an older child who is particularly bossy. As much as this may be true, when you walk in with a preconceived ideas of who started it or who is to blame, it is going to be very difficult to remain impartial (and your children will sense this). Instead try your hardest to take each argument as it comes – don’t let previous arguments cloud your judgement or opinion.
- Try to encourage each child to express themselves clearly. A lot of arguments occur when children are unable to express themselves effectively; the frustration builds, and then you get the explosion of anger. I find naming emotions particularly helpful here – so for example, you could encourage your child to say something like ‘I feel angry when you touch my favourite toy’. This makes it very clear to everyone involved what the issue is and how it is affecting them.
- Encourage each child to listen closely to what their sibling has to say. This goes hand in hand with point 3 – after all, what is the point in someone talking if the other person isn’t going to truly listen? This means reacting to what they are saying, and considering things from other peoples perspectives too, which can be hard for children (particularly younger children) – yet with careful and consistent modelling of this this, children will eventually start to internalise this and do it independently. You might also consider concisely overviewing your child’s main points to clarify understanding, such as ‘so let me just check I understand, you are upset because he wouldnt share?’, to ensure each child fully understands.
- Encourage reflection. By encouraging children to question and reflect on what happened and why, you also enable them to figure out how to stop this happening again. By asking them questions such as ‘how could you have dealt with this differently?’ and ‘where did it start going wrong?’, you are encouraging your child to evaluate the cause and effect of their argument, and allow them to explore what might happen if they were to try something else instead.
- Praise the times they are getting on well. This helps them to notice the good times and build positive a relationship with each other. It also helps you to notice the good times (lets face it, the human race is generally hyper focussed on the negative aspects of life), and when your kids are arguing a lot it can be refreshing to reflect on the fact it may not be quite as constant as it seems. You could say things like ‘I like how you guys are sharing so well’ – it provides specific feedback whilst being encouraging, and your children will appreciate the fact you have complimented them.
- Provide creative outlets for children to deal with anger and frustration. When children are particularly stressed and frustrated, it can be useful to provide them with alternative ways to manage this. I am not suggesting you shove paints in their face mid argument – though what I am saying is that the more ways a child has to express themselves, the less likely they are to have a build up of frustration. My favourite creative outlets for children are painting, clay, playdough, dancing, craft, and cooking.
- Have a quiet place where children can recover or escape a situation. This may not be necessary for all children, but for some children a bit of space to reflect and relax after a full on argument helps them to process what has happened in their own time and recover. If possible, ensure there is a space in your home where children can go when they need some time alone, for example a den in their bedroom. Ideally the space would not be shared with anyone else, but if this is not possible then you could just set family rules which state that when someone is a particular space they need a minute alone.
- Try to notice when tensions are building. This can sometimes be difficult, especially when your children are in a different room to you. However, you may start to notice a certain trigger, expression, or phrase which mean things are starting to get a bit heated. Where possible, stepping in at this point and completing the above steps is the best way to avoid a huge argument, as it diffuses the situation before it has had a chance to blow up.
- Be a good role model. With the best will in the world, if you don’t set children a good example yourself, the steps I have suggested are unlikely to work. Children are experts at noticing what you do more than what you say, so you may need to consider how you react to conflict yourself, and amend this slightly if needed. If your children see you dealing with their behaviour issues calmly, but then screaming at your partner for example, they are going to believe that your advice wont work and will instead copy your actions.
- Have clear expectations for behaviour, with agreed rewards and consequences. I believe this is especially important for when things get physical, after all, society has consequences for breaking laws so children need to get used to this. I find that behaviour expectations work best when you involve your children in planning them, so pick a time when everyone is calm to discuss any issues. It is also a good idea to make sure consequences are relevant to the ‘crime’ committed – so if your child has purposely broken their siblings toy for example, a good consequence may be to lose their favourite toy for a day, rather than something totally unrelated such as being banned from the Xbox for 2 weeks.
- Make time for yourself. This last point kind of goes hand in hand with my first point – if you are happy and recharged you will find it much easier to deal with your kids bickering. Do something you find relaxing every day, even it is just having a quiet, 5 minute cup of coffee in the back yard.
Tp tips to stop your kids arguing!Tweet
By following these tips consistently you should find that, with time, your children are more equipped to deal with conflict independently and will have less explosive (and hopefully fewer) arguments with each other. Let me know how you get on!
Love, Heather x
P.S. – Does your child have a particularly difficult aspect of behaviour? How do you manage it? Would you like some tailored tips to your individual situation? If so, please do get in touch.
If you found this helpful, please consider buying me a coffee to say thanks x