If you watch “The Parenting Show” or have attended one of my Parenting Bootcamps, you’ll know that I often answer parents who ask, “How should I deal with sibling fighting?” with the advice, “Just ignore it.”
That is just one solution and, no, it doesn’t mean I condone violence or that I tolerate people being treated poorly. My “just ignore it” advice is based on the fact that most often fights and quarrels between sibs are because they know it will serve to get your attention.
Fighting is a negative behavioral pattern choice that they both have discovered over time; namely that if they get along, parents tend to ignore them and get busy with their chores and emails and cooking dinner, etc. When they fight and cause a kerfuffle, however, parents get involved with them again. It’s THAT involvement they seek and they simply have learned from experience that being in conflict achieves it. Be peaceful – get ignored. Fight, get parental attention.
My advice is to switch that up! When they are playing peacefully, go join them and tell them what good company they are, and when they fight, instead of intervening and policing, try one of these lines instead (and then walk away):
“I am sorry you are having trouble with your sister – I am sure you two can work it out.”
“I am not interested in watching this – call me when you two are playing cooperatively again and I’ll happily come join in again.”
“I am sorry you are choosing to not get along – I’m going to find something else to do. Come get me if you want to play happily again.”
“I can see you are having a hard time playing without getting rough – this is not a fighting house – please take it outside.”
“I can’t watch people I love hurt each other, I am leaving.”
“I am going to get a coffee, call my cell phone when the house is a peaceful place to be in.”