Many of us who have more than one child have this dream that our children will be the best of friends and will love each other always. And sometimes our kids are so connected and loving, which is so touching and beautiful. But there are also times when they fight and argue and it’s often really stressful and can drive parents nuts. So how can we help support our children to get along?
Fortunately, Aware Parenting has lots of tools to encourage more harmony in the family.
From an aware parenting perspective, the reason for sibling rivalry and fights is usually either because our children are feeling disconnected from us or because they have some pent up stress that is coming up to be heard and healed. So to help prevent fights and arguments we can do these things:
- Focus on connection. We pour lots of extra love and connection into our children, giving them our attention and light-hearted playfulness.
- We give our children individual ‘Special Time’ – we set a timer for 10 minutes, half an hour, whatever we have the capacity to offer and during that time, the child gets our undivided and loving attention to play whatever they want to do.
- We offer other forms of ‘Attachment Play’. I used to love playing games with the children where they would “gang up on me” and always win. It could be them both chasing me or both beating me in a pillow fight and I would exaggerate how unfair it was that it was 2 against 1. Now my children are teenagers and are both way bigger than me, we still play games where they gang up on me, only now I don’t have to let them win!
- Listening to their feelings. If there are unexpressed feelings lurking underneath the fights then making time to listen to our children helps them to release and heal. What this looks like depends on the age of our children. When they are little, we listen to them when they are crying, raging or having tantrums with our loving presence. As they get older and express themselves more with words, then we can offer them empathic listening - while they tell us how they feel, we calmly and lovingly listen to them without judgement, without comment or advice or trying to fix things.
- If our children are in the middle of a fight, it’s important to keep everyone safe and then to listen calmly to both children, giving the space and time for both of them to tell us what happened and express how they are feeling.
Often when our children fight it can be really painful for us to hear and we can feel angry or powerless and sometimes it can bring up our own memories from childhood of our sibling rivalry. A core aspect of Aware Parenting is getting support for parents. This could be through a listening partnership where we share empathic listening time regularly with another parent or friend, or through journaling or having a session with an Aware Parenting instructor. It is really helpful for us to feel heard as parents and so often things for our children really shift when we have received support and empathy for our feelings. We are also much more likely to be able to be loving and calm and playful with our children when we feel supported and relaxed.