How to handle sibling quarrels as parents

Sibling quarrels and how to handle it

By Renate Engelbrecht

Monday, Aug 01

We’ve gone through quite a tough time with our two toddlers having it in for each other all the time, fighting over everything – from their parents’ laps and the simplest toys, to potty turns and toothpaste. And, we’ve found that as parents, we don’t always know what the right way is to handle the situation. In fact, many might say that there is no right and wrong. Still, we do like to come prepared when these sibling quarrels happen…

Explain, explain, explain

Sibling quarrels are often about one parent’s attention. Play therapist, Wietske Boon says if you can’t attend to your child right this instant, explain why. If your child wants you to sit with them while they are playing, but you need to prepare dinner or do some work, explain to them that you are still close by and why you can’t necessarily just sit with them at that moment. Remind them that while you can’t sit with them, it’s not that you’re not in each other’s spaces and that they are welcome to sit and play where you are busy.

Show them the time

Sometimes it helps to show your child the watch and tell them when you will be taking a break to spend time with them. This shows them that you won’t be busy indefinitely and gives them some kind of guideline as to when you will be able to focus all your attention on them.

Make’em feel your love

We’ve found that the more love you give to your kids (individually and together), the better. Not only hugs and kisses, but also true quality time. Quality time does not mean sitting with them while scrolling through your Instagram feed, though. No, mama and papa. Put that phone away and be there, in the moment, even when nothing gets said. They can feel it when your attention is divided. Be with your child 100%.

Give them ‘quiet time’

Catha (4) hates it when I say it’s time for an afternoon nap. So, we’ve recently changed it to quiet time (which eventually evolves into nap time without her realising that she’s falling asleep). This time is crucial for a toddler’s development, but it’s also a great time-out for the whole family, to recover from any kind of sensory overload. Since we’ve reintroduced an hour’s nap (or rather, quiet time) into Catha’s routine, she copes with her 2-year-old brother invading her personal space much better. It’s a great way for them to spend some time on their own, feel they have their own space and regroup a bit.

Sharing ís caring

It might be a tough concept to grasp, but this is one of those fights you just need to keep fighting until your kids get it right. Sharing ís caring and they need to learn to share toys, spaces and parents with each other in order to be able to share anything else with anyone else anywhere else. Whether it’s a crayon or a room, do whatever it takes to teach your children to share.

Talk them through it. Explain to your daughter why she needs to share and that her brother won’t take it away from her, but that he is only borrowing it and will give it back.

In the same breath, it’s also okay for them to have something that is theirs, and theirs only. It’s just as important for the other party to understand that they need to ask first before just borrowing or using something. That way they learn to communicate about sharing, they learn that sometimes people will say no, and that you need to respect the other person’s decisions, ideas and personal space.

I guess no one ever said parenting would be easy, right? Hopefully these tools might help you guide your kids through those sibling quarrels more gracefully, though.


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