Question: Our two boys, ages 7 and 9, are constantly fighting. The only thing that works is to separate them -- my wife with one, and I take the other. It's driving us nuts. Do you have any suggestions?
Mark Brandenburg responds: Siblings naturally vie for their parents’ attention, and fighting will be a part of that. The problem with separating them too much is that they won't learn some of the skills that will help them to get along in the future. Also, be aware of whether you "jump in" to stop the fight. This attention is one of the things that fuels the fighting.
Try to "train" your kids individually when they're in a receptive state. Talk to each of them about some of the choices they have when their brother bothers them. They can walk away, use words, ignore their brother, etc. Tell them how important it is in your family to be peaceful with each other.
When they make even the slightest progress to get along better, acknowledge it and let them know specifically what a great job they did. When they fight, ignore them and don't take sides --you'll just train them to be victims or perpetrators. Do your best not to blame anyone in particular for the fighting; let them know it takes two to tango.
One more very important aspect of this is how you handle your own frustrations when they fight. The more upset you get, the more likely the fighting will continue. Do your best to stay calm and to respond gently to their fighting.
© Mark Brandenburg
Mark Brandenburg, MA, CPCC, CSC, is an author, speaker and certified relationship coach. He has worked with individuals, teams and families to improve their lives for more than 20 years. He is the author of a number of books for men, including 25 Secrets of Emotionally Intelligent Fathers. Mark coaches parents from around the country through weekly telephone coaching sessions on balancing their lives and improving their parenting. He runs workshops and gives presentations for fathers and for parents that are enthusiastically received, as well as teleclasses for parents at MarkBrandenburg.com.
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