How to get your kids to stop fighting.

Wednesday, February 4, 2015
Slide1


Last week I was giving  talk to a group of women at a church and afterwards a woman came up to me and asked me if my kids fight.  I stopped and really thought about it and said, "No, not really."

I'd like to clarify immediately that yes, once in a while they bicker and sometimes the boys put one another down.  However, for the most part, my kids do not fight.  And honestly they never really did fight much. Sibling fighting in our house has been the exception rather than the norm.

The woman then asked me why I thought they did not fight.  I really thought about it for a minute.  First, I considered the age difference but I quickly realized that I have clients and friends who have big age gaps and their kids fight a lot.

I really think the reason my kids don't fight very often is that most of the time their emotional buckets are full.  Siblings fight primarily out of jealousy, boredom and lack of attention.  I firmly believe that if you connect emotionally and meaningfully with each of your children every day, the fighting will be insignificant in your home.  That meaningful connection will fill their need for both attention and jealousy.  You might see small and occasional bickering but the constant battles will disappear.

What exactly does that daily connection look like? Well it is different for each child depending on both the child and the age.  For Kate, it might simply be sitting at the table while she does her homework and asking about her day.  It might be watching the last few minutes of her violin lesson and talking to her about the new song she is learning.  It might be sitting on the couch snuggling and reading a chapter of Little House on the Prairie with her.  I connect with her in a way that she feels my undivided attention and interest.

For Harry, it might be hanging out in his room and asking him about the music on his phone or going out in the garage and looking at the new fishing lures he has painted. When Harry was younger, we would go out in the driveway and throw the baseball back and forth.  I was terrible and we would laugh at how uncoordinated I am but it was a great bonding experience for us.  Another way to connect  with teenage boys is over food.  I am not usually a fan of the drive thru or fast food in general, but if I drive through whataburger for my boys, they talk and we connect.  It's a win-win. Plus my skinny boys can use the extra calories.

With Will, I simply go in his room and hang out on his window seat while he is doing homework.  Usually, he will chat with me about his day, friends and classes.  But when he was little I would ask about his lego scenes and build something with him.  We also connected a lot though reading and books.

By taking just a little bit of time every day to make each child feel special and valued, we reduce the bickering around here. It was not really my intention to connect with them for the purpose of reducing the bickering.  I simply want to connect with my children on a daily basis.  But I will guarantee for every one reading this…that if you connect with each of your children in a meaningful and consistent way, giving them 100% of your undivided attention, you will not have a lot of bickering and fighting in your home.

I notice that when the boys do criticize one another it is almost ALWAYS after Dave or I just praised one of them or gave one of them extra attention.  I can literally see the ugly green monster of jealousy come out in whoever did not get the praise or attention.

My children are not perfect and Dave and I make mistakes in our parenting. There is no such thing as perfect parenting or perfect children.  But this is one thing I have noticed…. when my kids needs for attention are being met, our house is a lot more peaceful.  I have parents in my office who tell me they don't have time to connect with all of their kids every day.  I hear where they are coming from and I can empathize with them.  Life is busy.  If you are working outside the home and your children are in school and activities, you might only see them a few hours each day.  You might not be able to connect with each one every day but try to do it most days.

Also, sometimes it is really hard to connect with a child who is in a difficult phase of life. It can be a vicious cycle because often the kid who needs our attention the most is the one it is toughest to spend time with.  So, we spend less time connecting with that child and they act out more.  But just a few minutes of your undivided attention is the best investment you can make in your relationship with your child.  And just think about the time it takes to discipline and intervene in sibling arguments and power struggles. By doing this, you will actually have more time with your children and the time will be positive.

One of the things I recommend to my clients is to keep a small notebook on your bedside table and keep track of how you connect with each child each day.  It helps to keep you accountable and it helps you to track the patterns that make a difference with your children. Are there days when I don't connect with all (or any) of my children?  Yes, I am human and very flawed. But if I keep track of it, I am more likely to do it.

People ask me all the time if this is true for kids with special needs like ADHD, autism, sensory issues and the like.  I think kids with impulsivity will often have more challenges controlling their behavior which can sometimes escalate sibling fighting.  But in general ALL kids need these connections daily and they will all benefit from it.


May2007 372

May2007 330

Tell me what you think in the comments:)


22 comments:

  1. Kim, Loved this post. Like I mentioned to you - not always easy with two little ones, but I try my hardest each and every day. Thank you so much for this post!! Hugs and blessings, Ashley

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I left you a comment on IG too Ashely but it is so much more challenging to make the time for this when they are really little. I fell short a lot then too. BUT it is so important because it also lays the groundwork for connecting with them when they are tweens and teens. It is extremely difficult to start from ground zero with a moody teen if you haven't been trying to do this somewhat all along. hugs to you sweetie,
      Kim

      Delete
  2. Great ideas. I really try but you made me more aware. I like the journal idea. We also have those exact special needs here and that makes it extra challenging. We used to do one on one date nights with the kids. We need to get back to that one. Thanks for a great article!!!
    As for cooking, we ordered pizza tonight. That seems better than hot dogs!! Lol

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Kathleen, I think we all try but we all get into ruts and need reminders (myself included). You know we have done one on one dates for years and that helps a lot too.

      Pizza…YUM! We had pasta and trader joes vodka sauce. I almost always make my homemade sauce but keep a jar on hand for crazy nights. I am under the weather so used the jar tonight:) You do what you gotta do:)

      Delete
    2. We just got a trader joes here too. Will have to try that sauce.
      Both kids are getting over the flu, so we are in survival mode. Lol. Pizza delivery worked for tonight.
      Now onto planning one on one dates with the kids!

      Delete
  3. Hi Kim,
    Thanks for this post. Just before I read your post, I read books to each of mine individually, and I didn't want to - I'm tired. But, I'm glad I did. I do spend time with my three, but I can't honestly say I am intentional about it, or that I do it every single day. Sometimes I look up and the day is almost over, so I do it out of guilt and it is very rushed. For example, I'll breeze through a book or even skip some pages, but I never fool them... THEY KNOW quality time, and they let me know when I don't give it to them. What you wrote is so true. Our house is much more balanced and calm when they have real, true quality time with each of us regularly. I love the examples you gave, nothing grand or planned out - just a chat, sitting together - our presence is all they need! Thanks for the reminder.

    Since you have three different ages - I would love for you to do a post on technology use. Which kids have devices? What ages did you allow it? Boundaries, Rules, Social Media usage? Has it ever been a problem? Has it ever gotten in the way of quality time or communication? What about their friends - do they use it responsibly? I have a very responsible child, and I am not aware of current research, but I can't believe kids' brains are capable of handling all the decision making that comes along with these devices. My oldest is seven, and we aren't considering going there yet, but it absolutely terrifies me as a parent!

    Amanda

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Amanda,

      I love your honesty. We have all felt that way as Moms (too tired to sit and read the book). Kudos to you for making the effort as much as you do!

      Also,thank for the suggestion of writing about technology use. I will draft a post on that one soon. I do have guidelines and I am pretty conservative I think. We have not had any major issues but I think social media is easier with boys.

      Look for a post soon. Have a great day. It sounds like you are a great Mom!

      Delete
  4. EXCELLENT post Kim!! Thank you for this valuable food for thought!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thank you Susan. Hope you all are well.

      Delete
  5. Great post! I'm sure this would have been so helpful when my sons were young and sometimes bugging each other (and me). With only one at home, it's easier to connect with Miss M daily -- in the car, at bedtime, on the way home from school and I can really see how valuable that time is - especially in these teen years. Thanks for another great post. Also looking forward to your technology post. Hope you feel better soon! If only you were local -- I made some delish Lemon Chicken Orzo Soup and I would have delivered some to you! Take it easy!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. You are sweet and thoughtful Janet.That soup sounds delicious!!!! I'd love the recipe. I make one too. I wonder if it is the same. I know what you mean. i honestly did not do this as much as I should have when the boys were toddlers but it has been invaluable through the years. I think it is hard for people to realize that the proactive effort is so worth it. Most people seem t parent reactively these days and the proactive approach is always better. Hope you are well.

      Delete
  6. I add this to my "need to know one day" file :)

    ReplyDelete
  7. This is so incredibly helpful! I do notice that the bickering is worse when they're fighting for attention, and I try to be sensitive to that. Thank you for sharing your wisdom!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thank you Michele. It is good you notice and try to be proactive. You are ahead of the game that way.

      Kim

      Delete
  8. Dear Kim,

    I have just read your post and I think it is really useful. It is true that when our emotional bucket is full we do not need to fight for attention because we do not see the other as an opponent.

    Here you have my personal advice:

    - We have to teach our kids to express their emotions. When we are angry we have to tell them: “I am angry with you because…I am going to calm down and then we will talk”. When they are angry or they start fighting we have to remember them to calm and relax and then talk. Sometimes it is difficult for them to express what they feel.

    - Never compare them.

    Thank you Kim,

    Belén

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thank you Belen! Great tips. I really appreciate your comment. Have a lovely week.

      Kim

      Delete
  9. This really hits home with me. My husband works 12-14 hours every day, and I am a stay at home mom to two boys--4 and 1.5. By the end of the day, we could ALL use a break, but I do find that spending quality time with each of them throughout the day leads to fewer outbursts later. I could definitely be more proactive about it, though! Sometimes, I just don't feel like I have the energy, but I always end up paying for that later! Great post.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Danielle,

      I really empathize with you. You are in the trenches of mothering and those were the hardest years for me as a Mom. They really were. I think it is great that you recognize this are are doing the best you can. It gets easier in many ways. I think being a proactive parent rather than a reactive parent makes for such a more peaceful home. I am planning a post on that too:)

      Kim

      Delete
  10. What beautiful insight. I'm going to make a more conscious effort. Thank you.

    ReplyDelete
  11. My three have never bickered or fought either. Now we have two in college and they will go out for lunch, dinner or a movie together when they are home on break. They keep in touch with each other and one still at home sometimes more frequently than me. We didn't purposefully set out to spend time with each of them, it just was a result of homework, reading, dinners, and just spending some time with them before they went to sleep. I think we enjoyed/need it as much as they do. Some of my friends with the bickering issue try so hard to make everything absolutely even between their children and I think that just backfires. If we were shopping and they would pick up something for one child they would make sure they brought something equal home to the other. Their needs are so different and always changing.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I am so glad your grown kids are close Nanc. I hope ours will be too. I 100% agree about not making things even all the time. I give a talk in sibling relationships and that is my main point. Don't even try to make it even steven. It actually makes the kids keep score and it will never work. I tell my kids…there will be time someone gets more than you and there will be times when you get more. We love each of you uniquely to your needs. Thanks for the insightful comment.

      Delete

Thank you for your kindness.