Q. How can parents stop siblings from squabbling?
A. Conflicts between young siblings may be inevitable, but parents do need to step in to teach their children how to resolve them, says Wendi Fischer, a family psychologist in private practice in West Islip.
Consider the scenario in which siblings are playing and one swipes the other one's toy. Parents should have one child voice his complaint first and the other child reflect back what the first child said. Then the second child should tell his side and have the first child reflect back what the second child said. If either child interrupts, parents need to say, "Give your sibling a chance to speak."
Then it's time to brainstorm a solution. The kids could suggest taking turns with the toy. They could suggest avoiding such conflicts in the future by having a scheduled time with the toy. If they can't come to an agreement, you could then take the toy away until they do, Fischer suggests.
This technique needs to be applied to all sources of fighting. "Kids are impulsive," Fischer says. In the moment, they may not remember how to behave. But parents need to repeatedly teach them how to resolve a disagreement until it becomes second nature to them.
"It's an ongoing process. It's not going to happen overnight," Fischer says. "Every conflict should be a learning experience. That's how we become civilized human beings." Eventually, their bickering may subside.
Friday is National Sibling Day, which gives parents a chance to encourage more sibling love. Have your children make cards for one another, or list the traits they like in one another. Have them each plan a surprise for the other sibling or siblings, Fischer suggests.