You can hear it coming, like the escalating of a distant train. They begin over something quiet and simple, a disagreement for instance over whose turn it is to be in control over the television or who borrowed something and did not return it. The disagreement builds and before you know it there may be raised voices, anger, frustration and cries out for “MOM!” At this point, it may seem as though the freight train is plowing through your living room shaking everything in sight.
Every parent experiences this at some point, some children get along better with siblings than others but EVERY sibling group or set, at some point, will have conflict. There are the obvious ways to deal with the issue, most often the parent trying to sort out who was in the wrong and who wasn’t and playing mediator. However, if you have a family that is beyond just two children, or maybe you are just exhausted from being the mediator here are some time-tested creative ways to deal with sibling conflict.
One of the most creative ways I have ever heard of sounded so outlandish that I just had to try it. Holding hands was the solution. When the siblings are arguing over whatever it is, the parent can intervene and force a “hand holding chore.” Both offending parties are essentially “punished” for their part and must do a chore together, but the catch is that they have to hold hands while completing this task. A specific time that we employed this, our girls were ages 7 and 4. They had been arguing over everything for hours when, as an exasperated mom, I said “ENOUGH!” I decided that their punishment would be to clean the playroom while holding hands, something that both shocked them and made them cringe. Who really wants to hold hands with the very person they have been seething against? I observed from a distance and the hilarity that ensued is still talked about in our family today. First, the pair was dragging one and other all over the place but quickly realizing that they were going to be forced to work together or forever be conjoined, they figured it out and in a short time, the ridiculousness of the situation had them laughing. Conflict diffused.
Another option is “punishing” both children by separating them and requiring them both to think of a nice deed to do for the other one, accompanied by a note (or in the case of very young children, a colored picture) for the sibling. This cools the aura of the room, separates the children and requires them to re-engage with their sibling in a different manner.
Lastly, have a premade mason jar full of chores on slips of paper as well as a mason jar full of kind deeds on slips of paper. When the argument gets intense give the pair a cooling off period away from one and other for a few minutes then have them select from one of the two jars, if they pick the kind deeds slips, they have to do the kind deed towards their sibling.
These ideas are creative ones that often work best when the conflict has been escalating for some time throughout the day, and when you are at home to deal with it. Every sibling set will have their arguments and ups and downs, but as parents, our ultimate goal should be to teach them to work it out. After all, we want to raise children who actually depend on and enjoy the sibling relationships that they have been blessed with.