2 of my kids were involved in an argument about whether a cube was a cube or a square. My 3-year-old insisted to the point of crying that it was a square. My 6-year-old maintained that it was a cube. That got me to thinking about how best to deal with sibling disagreements.
As a parent, you desire to see your children playing happily and cooperating in everything. Sorry to disappoint you. Siblings live together, and compete for the same things, including your attention. As children grow, they want to show that they are their own individuals, with their own views, that may differ. And children are notorious for not being able to control their feelings. There is no way disagreements will not happen.
When should you step in to resolve sibling disagreements?
You don’t need to step in as soon as a disagreement starts. If you wait and watch, the siblings may be able to resolve it themselves. Remember they need to develop problem-solving skills. However, you need to step in once it threatens to become a fight, or before they begin to cry.
Have some ground rules for when siblings disagree
There must be guidelines in your home. For example, no name-calling, no hitting, no taking someone’s stuff and refusing to return it, and no refusing to speak to someone for longer than a day. These guidelines must not be varied and going against them must have consequences.
Lead by example
Actions speak louder than words. No matter what the rules are, if your children see you regularly flouting them, they may be tempted to do same.
If you decide to interfere, it is important to keep your cool when your children have a disagreement. Ask them to explain to you, in a normal voice, what the problem is. In my case, before it could get to that point, Miss Square had moved on to something else. Problem solved, or not.
Make use of teachable moments
Sometimes, disagreements are teachable moments. With the square and the cube, it would have been ideal to use the opportunity to tell the siblings that both of them can be right at the same time. But I did not step in, because I realised that my 3-year-old was not going to be able to understand that there is a view bigger than her 3-year-old eyes could see. Know the maturity of your kids. Complex explanations do not work with toddlers.
Procrastination is not always the thief of time
The day after the argument, I took the cube and asked my 6-year-old what shape it was. He said again that it was a cube, but agreed that it could be a square if you only focused on the side facing you. I asked whether he was willing to tell his sister that it was a square. He said no, that only ‘babies’ saw it that way, and he was not a baby. So, I let it be. You may talk about it later but it doesn’t mean that progress will be made.
No time for blame games
This is very difficult to do when one person is obviously wrong. But instead of pointing out who is wrong, you can try pointing out what is wrong. I could have told my 6-year-old that it was not nice to make his sister cry when he knew that she did not know what a cube was. That would have been much nicer than calling him a bad brother, or a bully.
Will siblings always disagree?
Sibling disagreements are inevitable. Whatever you do, be the adult and don’t join the melee. Bearing in mind the maturity of your children, and whether a fight is imminent, you need to decide whether to step in or allow your kids to solve their problem themselves.