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Tips to stop summer sibling spats

If FIFA can ban the World Cup’s most talked about player to curb this ridiculous and toddler-esque behavior, then surely we as parents can do our share to teach better coping skills.

Photo credit: Matthias Hangst/Staff/Getty Images Sport/Getty Images Ingram Publishing/Getty Images

t Is your house like mine this summer? More like WWE Smackdown than the peaceful harmony that used to exist? Are your kids fighting over toys, rolling around on the floor wrestling like lion cubs or even getting physical with hitting or biting like Uruguay’s famous soccer star Luis Suarez? If FIFA can ban the World Cup’s most talked-about player to curb this ridiculous and toddler-esque behavior, then surely we as parents can do our share to teach better coping skills.

t Since I seem to be playing the role of referee this past month far too often, calling 20-second timeouts and literally using my daughter’s whistle to break up a scuffle, I thought it was time to introduce some strategies to stop sibling spats, and start having some fun.


t Monkey see, monkey do. Whatever one has, the other invariably must have that instantaneous second, or a blasted tug of war begins, usually ending in tears. So here are two things that seem to work for us.


  1. Set a timer: Each child gets five minutes (or whatever amount you determine) to play with the valued toy. Then when the timer dings, they take turns.
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  3. Bye bye toy: If the timer doesn’t work, then say bye bye to the toy. Do not pass go, do not collect 200 bucks. I give them one warning, and if they still can’t share we take the toy away for the entire day. Trust me, a day without the beloved iPad or Elsa doll, and they’ll learn the lesson quickly.

Let’s get physical

t Kids need to be kids, and love to just run and play. Sometimes when they get physical with each other, it just means it’s time to let off steam. So go outside, ride a bike, play soccer, go swimming or just play something simple like hide-and-go-seek. And if it’s raining, try a wii dance game or have a dance party.

t And if you do find them hitting, biting, kicking or injuring each other, it’s time for some serious penalties. In our house hurting someone is a five- to 10-minute timeout in their beds, with no toys or books. A second offense means a huge privilege is revoked. Swimming is the new passion in our home, and really means the most to my daughters. Screen time is also at the top of the list, but just be sure you’re willing to live with the consequence of their misery.

Take a break

t Siblings forced to be home all day together, when usually separated by school, sometimes don’t mix. Try to suggest some sort of rest time, or time apart in the middle of the day if possible. My toddler naps at 1:00 p.m. every day, so I use that time for my kindergartener to have some independent play time. She can draw in her room, play dolls, LEGOs, read or if she needs some mommy time we do something quiet together.

Boredom jar

t I’ve seen this idea numerous times on Pinterest, and it really does work. We took our beloved pet fish’s bowl (who went down the toilet bowl to heaven) and turned it into the Boredom Jar. What’s inside? We wrote activities on little slips of paper for the girls when they complain there’s nothing to do. Play Doh, coloring, riding your bike, LEGOs, and then the fun stuff like clean your room, wash the windows or help dust. Choose from the boredom jar at your own risk.

Be consistent

t How tired are parents of hearing this? But it’s totally true. I feel like a cheerleader, but be consistent, be-be-consistent. And that doesn’t just mean with enforcing the same consequences, it means co-parenting as well. Both parents need to agree upon the penalty, and both parents need to follow through in the same manner. If not, the little tyrants will take over.

t Never in my wildest dreams did I think fighting between my daughters would be our biggest parenting challenge… but that’s life, I suppose. It could be worse, one of them could have bitten another athlete during the World Cup. I would love to hear that phone call to Mrs. Suarez, by the way… “Mom, I swear I didn’t bite him… ” Stay positive, and remember it could always be worse.

t Enjoy the rest of your summer and rejoice, only six more weeks until school starts.

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