By: Jennifer Ripepi, MD
One thing to remember is that any attention a child gets from you is attention whether you are happy or not. How do you keep your wits when the battles wage around you? Be ready to accept that the conflict will happen. That is key. Children are not doing this with the intent of making you crazy. The intent is to get what each child wants whether it's toys or mommy's lap or the last strawberry. Limited resources leads to competition. Everything cannot be shared fairly all the time.
Waiting for a turn when a child sees someone else having fun is really hard. So give your child tips for how to make waiting fun with little rhymes, counting games, singing songs and such. Use your imagination or let them use theirs. Set timers so that the time is the same for each if turn-taking is the goal. Short spurts are better than longer intervals.
What if there is only one toy between two battling children? I used to give the toy a time out. We sometimes had more toys in time out than usable. We had to find ways to use our imaginations and cooperate with activities instead. We would try more active play, pretend games with everyone involved, or story time. Sometimes the battle was heated enough that two children and the toy went to a brief time out. That would usually give me time to come up with a plan like a snack, a nap, or play ideas. Believe me, I felt like I needed to be a magician to pull ideas out of thin air sometimes.
Ever walk into a room because you heard a scream and a cry? A conflict has happened and now you have to sort it out! What do you do? That's a tough one. If both children can talk or there is a bystander who can give some input then that may help. If not, it's easier to blame the older child because "they should know better." But that may not be accurate. There is no way I can give advice that covers all of those situations. I think the best general way to handle that is to use a statement like, "It looks like you two (or more) need a break from each other. I don't know for sure what happened here but everyone will need to separate for (whatever time is age appropriate). Then we'll try to do something we all like together." You are giving time outs for a really good reason!
Please also try to praise your children when they are playing well together. There is nothing a child loves better than to hear that he or she is a good kid! There has to be "time in" for "time out" to work. Be patient with yourself and your children and find the positives. Take your "time outs" when you need them, too. It's a good example for your children.
How do you handle sibling rivalry in your home? If you don’t have more than one child, do you have cousin rivalry? Friend rivalry?
About the Author: I have been a pediatrician for over 25 years. My husband and I have been privileged to raise 4 bright and healthy children. I have tried to gather wisdom from the families I have been blessed to meet during my journey. I believe in practical and flexible parenting to help raise healthy adults. I love to garden, hike, travel and cook and I am looking forward to hearing from Choosy followers.