When Emotions Run High, Give Your Kids A Plan Of Action

Before you started a family, you may have daydreamed about how many children you would have, creating a picture-perfect scene of family trips or dinners full of conversation with everyone getting along.

Fast forward – you’ve got those beautiful kids, and they fight all – the – time!

Nothing can be more frustrating than those constant battles between our children, but there are some ways to alleviate conflict between siblings with a little patience and understanding.

Sibling rivalry is inevitable.  When our children are small, they fight over toys or who gets to do what first.  As they get older, they may have real feelings of jealousy, anger, or frustration that must be addressed in order to keep the family unified.

And while kids may be frustrated when they have conflicts with their siblings, it can be just as discouraging for a parent who doesn’t know how to handle it.

After all, nothing hurts our hearts more as parents than to see our children – the people we love most in the world – not getting along with each other.

All kids are unique.  No two have the same personality or way of resolving issues, even if they are siblings.

So what’s a parent to do, not just to ease a temporary argument, but to really get to the underlying issues for the conflict?  First of all, we need to examine how we are reacting and what messages we are sending our kids.

The Child Development Institute recommends the following actions for parents:

Don’t make comparisons. Each child feels he is unique and rightly so; he is his own person and resents being evaluated only in relation to someone else. Instead of comparison, each child in the family should be given his own goals and levels of expectation that relate only to him.

Don’t dismiss or suppress your children’s resentment or angry feelings. They need the adults in their lives to assure them that mothers and fathers get angry too but have learned self-control and that angry feelings do not give license to behave in cruel and dangerous ways. This is the time to sit down, acknowledge the anger and talk it through.

Try to avoid situations that promote guilt in siblings. First, we must teach children that feelings and actions are not synonymous. In situations like this, parental intervention must be quick and decisive.

Whenever possible, let brothers and sisters settle their own differences. Parents have to judge when it is time to step in and mediate, especially in a contest of unequals in terms of strength and eloquence. Some long-lasting grudges among grown siblings have resulted when their minority rights were not protected.

Once we acknowledge that our children are expressing true feelings of anger and frustration – all normal for kids – then we can come up with ways that they can help diffuse the situation, with a little encouragement from Mom or Dad.

Rebecca Eanes, author of The Positive Parenting Workbook, has some great ideas to help kids calm down and open up when they are arguing, especially if they are getting physically aggressive with one another.

Lemon Lime Adventures reports on her techniques:

Time In:  This technique is used to calm an aggressive or emotionally overloaded child.  Find a quiet space away from others, and use “calming tools” to help them pull themselves together so that they are able to talk through the situation.

These can be a soft blanket, a favorite stuffed animal or comfy pillow, or sensory items like a squishy ball or playdoh so that they learn coping mechanisms for when [they’re] emotionally overwhelmed.”  Once they have calmed down, they can discuss what started the situation and you can help them work with their sibling on a resolution.

True for both adults and children, nothing can be resolved in the heat of the moment when tensions and emotions are high.

Cool Off:  Just like it sounds, this is a time to cool off away from their siblings.  With similar techniques to the “time in,” this time away will help bring emotions down to a level where a rational and productive conversation can take place.

In this case, however, cooling off can include some kind of physical activity like running around the backyard or kicking a ball around until they have gotten through the height of any anger or frustration.

Peace Table: Eanes recommends having a gathering place in the home where everyone can come together for a peaceful discussion of the situation, express their feelings, and examine what can be done to bring it to resolution.

It can be the dinner table, a play tent, or a fluffy rug used specifically for this purpose.  And in this space, no negative talk, accusations, or attacks are allowed.

During this time, she suggests you allow each child time to state their case, acknowledge and understand the problem yourself, and help your children come to a resolution together.

Repair:  This important step is all about apologizing and making amends between siblings.  Once they understand the viewpoint or actions of each other, they can work towards repairing their important bond.

Eanes states, “Whether they choose to give a verbal apology, write a card, or make a small gift, I strongly encourage them to apologize and right their wrongs.”

Refer to your blueprint: Eanes recommends creating a family blueprint – a plan of action when conflict arises between your children.

This can be a written family plan, or even pictures drawn to help little ones remember what to do after an argument, for example, the “time in” area, what things they are allowed to do to “cool off,” or what will be used as the “peace table.”

Eanes says, “In the family mission statement we all signed, we agreed that kindness was our big value. Did you act in a kind way? What could you have done differently?”

With a plan of action of what steps you will take with your children when conflict arises, you will be able to stay calm, cool, and collected in order to help your little ones understand and resolve an emotional situation.

And following a plan towards resolution will strengthen the sibling bond.  We’re betting that if they are used to a peaceful and rational plan of attack of this sort that it will increase their conflict resolution skills as teens and beyond.

What do you think of these tips to resolve sibling rivalry?  Does your family have a plan of action for when conflict between the kids arises?  Leave us your favorite ideas in the comments.


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