Summer time is traditionally a time of backyard
barbeques, swimming at the public pool, eating watermelon
and . . .

beating up your pesty little brother.

Okay Okay, not exactly your idea of an ideal summer
pastime? Mine either! Yet, unstructured summer play
times and family vacations often mean more brothers and
sisters are stuck playing together. More togetherness
often means more chances for conflict.

This is how it works in many homes:

Sister says something rude to brother.
Brother gets infuriated then smacks sister.
Sister cries and brother gets in trouble.

***That’s not fair!***

While hitting is the more serious offense, the fact is
that sister also did something. By not giving her a
consequence, you are unwittingly reinforcing her
behavior, which will continue to instigate his behavior.
Since an adult is not always around to know the details
of what exactly happened, I suggest always giving a
consequence to both combatants, I mean, children. ;)

This does several things:

1. It stops siblings from endlessly picking on each other
in order to get the more impulsive child in trouble.
2. It builds teamwork thinking in the children. Since
they know they will both get in trouble, they are less
likely to "tattletale" on each other for every little
thing.
3. It is fair. It takes two to tango and also to fight.
Innocent victims are rare in this scenario.

Obviously, there are exceptions to this rule, but by and
large, it works and helps to lower the amount of sibling
fighting that goes on.

***Working it out***

In order to help kids work through or avoid conflict,
it’s important to teach them how to handle it themselves.
The tendency to step in and separate the combatants just
to return to peace is overwhelming, but allowing them to
work through their conflicts together can yield big
rewards in the long run. Follow these steps to restore
peace:

1. Stop the physical fighting or the yelling and request
that both parties use a calm voice.
2. Give each sibling a chance to tell their side of the
story without interruptions from the other.
3. Ask clarifying questions until you feel that all the
important details about the disagreement are on the
table.
4. Help them to summarize their concerns and get
agreement that you understand everything.
5. Ask them to both come up with solutions that address
both concerns as well as your concern about the fighting.
6. If they need help coming up with solutions that
address both concerns, then give them some ideas.

This process of collaborative problem solving is not easy
for kids to do at first. It does take practice, but it
is a skill that will serve them the rest of their lives.

Author's Bio: 

Since 2002, Karen DeBolt has been helping moms struggling with chaos at home who want their children to be happy and successful as a preschool teacher, parent coach, and as a family therapist. Karen has a master's degree in Counseling Psychology with a child and family emphasis. Even more importantly, she has three master teachers at home--her three children, two who have special needs.

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