I have taken your advice and am trying to stay out of my children’s fights. It does seem to be working, so thank you. However, I have one clarifying question. What if my older child who is much more assertive and bossy, always makes their younger sibling do things her way? She seems to have the unfair advantage, and the younger one never gets their way. It breaks my heart! Is this okay, even when it’s so blatantly unbalanced?
So glad to hear that you are seeing a decrease in fighting. We do want children to feel they are getting their needs met in the family. A sense of equity is needed, but we can accomplish that without refereeing their fights. Here are some ideas to try:
- When your elder daughter pushes her way on her younger sibling, you could ask the younger one “did you want to do things her way? If not, you can speak up and use your voice and let her know that you want things to go your way this time. She’s more likely to go along with you if you let her know” This is not refereeing – but coaching the younger child to be more assertive to a bossy person. They need to find their own voice, not default to you being their voice.
- You can say “It seems to me that not everyone is getting a turn choosing how to play today. Let’s talk about this at our next family meeting”. This is also not refereeing the fight, but it does allow you to step in and state that you are aware of the imbalance and want to solve that inequity in the family at a time when we focus on family problem solving together – NOT during conflict where egos and interpersonal dynamics rule the moment.
Lastly, I was the youngest of 4 siblings and I didn’t get my way very often. I acquiesced a lot because I wanted to get in the game with my brothers. I would have done almost anything to be included. In reality, this need for equity can be a much bigger problem for the parents than for the siblings.
Good luck! Let me know how it goes.