Sibling fights can get nasty– quick. While the average sibling rivalry is normal and can actually be beneficial, all-out fights can lead to ugliness that may require us to pull on our referee shirts.
Layering on yet another role is frustrating and exasperating. I don’t want to be a referee. Plain as that. So finding some tricks to put a stop to those sibling fights as quickly as possible is the name of the game. The quicker we can reach peace, the better.
Our ultimate goal is to train the hearts of our children. To turn them toward Jesus every chance that we get. This is best done in the peaceful moments, though. So in the midst of the squabbles, peace is the goal!
How do we reach that peace super fast before mama loses it? Here are some simple tricks to stopping the fighting quick:
If you’ve ever yelled at your kids to stop yelling, you’re not alone. Parenting is incredibly humbling, especially in the heated moments. The fact remains, if we as the parents are flying off the handle when the kids are bickering, we’re only adding fuel to the fire. Take a deep breath and wait before jumping into the ring with the kids. You may be surprised how often the kids work out their own conflicts before you ever have to step in. But even if it gets to the point where parental refereeing is essential, be the peacemaker by staying calm.
Acknowledge the big emotions.
The big emotions are flying all over the room when siblings get into it. When it’s time to bring your calm and peaceful presence into the room, recognize and acknowledge what emotions your kids are dealing with. One son is calling the other names while tears stream down his face. A careful assessment will reveal the big emotion behind the reaction and you can intervene with words like, “Your feelings are hurt and you’re feeling angry, right? I would feel the same way.” Kneel down to his level and speak gently, offering him other ideas for how he could have responded to his brother hurting his feelings.
Hug it out.
Forcing our kids to apologize to each other is fine, but doesn’t really accomplish anything. That’s why the rule in our house requires a hug be included with that apology. And it has to be a real hug, both arms wrapped around in a full on bear hug. I’ve been known to get my own arms wrapped around those little fighting rascals. It’s amazing the power of the hug. Along these lines, you could have the siblings hold hands until they stop fighting. Or even stand nose to nose until they work it out. Some sort of physical touch goes a long way in mending relationships, and will often elicit some giggles.
Take a breather.
I believe siblings need to learn to work things out and not always be sent to different rooms in the midst of their squabbles. But if emotions are much too fiery and things are getting out of control, separating them for a short time could be beneficial. Just like we as moms may need the occasional cooling off period, our kids could use it sometimes, too. Let the tempers cool, but be sure to bring them back together to resolve the issue and hug it out.
Give them chores.
Fill a jar with chores written on strips of paper. Let your kids know that when they get into another one of their fights, you’re going to have them grab a chore from the jar. Then, any time they break into fighting, just call out, “Pick a chore!” It’ll definitely make them think twice the next time things start to escalate. You could go even simpler and tell them they have to clean the house everytime they fight. They stop fighting and you get things done around the house. It’s a win-win for sure!
Assign a project.
Give your kids some kind of problem to solve or project to complete that requires them to not only work together, but depend on each other to get it done. It could be some kind of household chore or yard work, but it could also be tackling a puzzle or playing a cooperative game. They’ll be too busy working on their project to fight (hopefully!). At the same time they’ll be building their relationship, creating less conflict in the future.
Siblings are going to fight. They’re human after all. But before you pull on that referee shirt again, try some of the above tips. Before long, with consistency, that extra layer will be collecting dust in your motherhood closet, and peace will be the reigning champion in your home.