I finally convinced the kids that, before they degenerate into conflict, they need to ask for help. It worked, mostly. Yes, a conflict would still erupt sometimes, but typically one boy or the other would come to me with, "Mom, please help me. He's doing..." For a brief time, I was fine with this — but then realized that we weren't really getting anywhere. They were asking me to solve their problems for them and not learning their own problem-solving skills for interpersonal relationships. This just wasn't going to work in the long run.
Asking for help as a first step
Asking the kids to ask for help was a good first step. Rather than let the situation really dissolve, one child was removing himself from the scene to find me. This was a good choice; this would bring the conflict to a (temporary) standstill. Perhaps, even before I was involved, each was thinking about how they got to that point. But probably not. Still, the stopping part was bringing us back to the point where we could address the underlying issue.
When the boys started asking me for help, they wanted me to fix everything, of course. Alfs wanted me on his side, Woody wanted me on his side, and one probably would be mad no matter what I did. Unless it was a clear-cut discipline issue, I had a very fine line to walk. Was I really going to help one by siding with or against him? Was that the right thing to do in any
Asking each of the boys leading questions was one approach. This didn't mean asking each for his side of the conflict; it was asking questions that transcended the situation. For example, "Was there anything either of you could have done to change the course of the last few minutes? Could you do that now?" "If you were in your brother's place, what would you like to see happen?" "How could you act now to resolve the situation?"
Most of the time, my boys already have the answers. My questions are just the reminders. Most of the time, with this guidance and leading, they can sort the problem out for themselves. Before moving on to the next conflict, that is.
Sometimes it doesn't work
Sometimes, though, it doesn't work. The bickering and trying to get their own ways are more important to them than the initial disagreement; it's conflict just for the sake of conflict. Separating them for a time to cool off seems to be the only solution that is currently working.
I'm sure it's going to be a very long time before we get away from sibling rivalry completely. (Heck, my mother has yet to see the end of it among her children!). Encouraging problem solving in this way is only one way we can address sibling rivalry.
Tell us: How do you deal with sibling rivalry? Comment below!
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