Behavior Makeover: Sibling Battles
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- Calm everyone down. Intervene when emotions are high but before an argument escalates. Use what works best to calm everyone down: running a quick lap outside, doing five jumping jacks, taking three slow deep breaths, lying down for a few minutes, cuddling a teddy bear. If needed, separate the two kids until they can calm themselves and work things through: "I see two angry kids who need to cool down. You go to your room and you to your room until you can talk calmly."
- Clarify feelings. Sometimes all that is needed is for someone to acknowledge the hurt kid's feelings. Try it: "You're hurt because you think your brother is being treated more fairly than you are." "You're frustrated because you're not getting a turn at Nintendo."
- Let each kid tell the story. To help kids feel that they're really being heard, ask each one to take a turn explaining what happened. Ask everyone to focus on the child who is speaking and really listen. No interrupting is allowed, and everyone gets a turn. If you think you don't understand, ask for clarification: "Could you explain that to me again?" When the sibling is finished, briefly restate her view to show that you do understand. You might then ask, "What can you do to solve this problem?"
- Make the kids part of the solution. Ask those involved what they plan to do to solve "their" problem. Making kids part of the solution often causes them to stop, think, and quiet down. Do set guidelines for talking it out: no interrupting, no put-downs, and only calm voices are allowed. By taking turns, kids can learn to make their points with words, not blows. One dad sets an oven timer and says, "Let's see if you can work this through calmly for three minutes. Then I'll return." Another mom sits her preschoolers on the couch and tells them they can't get up until they talk it out.
- See it from the other side. Kids often get so caught up in feeling they're being treated unfairly that they don't stop to think how the other person might be feeling. So ask, "See it from the other side now. How does your sister feel?" This also builds empathy.
More on: Behavior and Discipline
From No More Misbehavin' by Michele Borba, Ed.D. Copyright © 2003 by Michele Borba. All rights reserved. Used by arrangement with John Wiley & Sons, Inc.
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