Do your children fight often? Have warring siblings turned your peaceful home into a battlefield? Here's how to cope.
Picture this. Your elder child was playing with a toy, and then the younger one came along and decided he wanted it. So a fight ensues, and both come crying to you. What do you as a parent do?
Don't expect sacrifices from your older child
Parents often take the side of the younger sibling and tell the elder child to fork the toy over to the younger one. "Give it to your younger brother. You're a big boy now, you shouldn't be crying over a little toy."
Parents often lose sight of the fact that although one child is older than the other, they are still both children, and it is unfair for you to always expect your elder child to make sacrifices for his younger sibling.
When your children come to you to decide the outcome of any situation, make sure you come up with a fair decision, without considering their ages. After all, its not your child's fault that he was born earlier, is it? Then why is he being punished for it again and again? And don't think your child doesn't realise that he is being unfairly punished. He does, and may hold it against you or against his sibling, and may develop insecurities. In addition, this approach will only foster sibling rivalry.
Give each child his due when required
Also remember that there are times you may need to treat one child differently from the other - say on one child's birthday. If your other child feels neglected, don't rush to make it up to her. However, don't ignore her feelings either. Explain to her that it is her sister's birthday, and so all of us have to work on making it special for her. Let her know that you will do the same on her birthday. Don't play down the importance of one child's birthday, just so the other child doesn't feel neglected.
Draw fighting rules
Draw certain rules with regard to fighting eg. no yelling, no hitting and so on. Every time these rules get broken, pull out chairs, place a timer on a table, and make your children sit still on these chairs for a fixed amount of time. Tell them that they are not allowed to talk, and if any child opens his mouth, his time will go up by 5 minutes. You could then place a couple of drawing books and colouring pencils in front of them and let them spend time colouring. They will be itching to get up and talk to each other and don't be surprised if you see them whispering or gesturing to each other.
However, don't punish them without listening to each side of the story. Although it is easier to punish all your children when they are fighting, there is often a reason as to why the fight broke out, and there will often be one child who is more in the wrong than the other. You could still punish all for yelling or hitting each other, but let the aggressor know that what he did was wrong. This way, your other child or children will not feel misunderstood.