Sick of squabbles and spats between your kids? Does your home often feel like a war zone? We’re here to help!
It’s tough when you have a day when your children can’t even look at each other without an argument breaking out. Constant arguments and friction can be very upsetting for a parent. You often feel drained and sad to see your children’s relationships become a negative influence on your family dynamic.
As head of the home, parents feel the responsibility to fix things between their children. This isn’t always easy, but there are ways you can help to mediate and mend disagreements between siblings.
WHAT’S THE PROBLEM?
Try to get to the root of the problem first: is it one stroppy teenager upsetting the vibe? If so, why might that be? Do they feel excluded, stressed or simply unhappy? Is it an issue about sharing, bullying or calls of ‘favouritism’? Are younger siblings driving a teen sibling to distraction? Whatever the problem, no matter how small, it’s important to make sure everyone is heard and feels like their thoughts and feelings are validated.
TALK IT OUT
Not so easy to do mid-argument when the kids are screaming at each other about who used up the last of the milk and you’re rushing around like a headless chicken, trying to make sure everyone gets to school on time, we know. If it’s all going off and you don’t have time to sit down and clear the air, don’t worry. Hit pause for now and vow to revisit this later in the day when things have calmed down and everyone is ready to talk.
Right, now it’s time to talk. Get the family together and sit them down for a frank chat about the arguing. Give everyone their chance to have their say and ask the rest of the family not to interrupt when someone else is talking. Everyone will get their chance to speak. Pass a wooden spoon around, if it helps – only the person holding the spoon is allowed to speak to ensure everyone gets a fair chance to be heard. There’s a fair chance that an argument will break out or bickering will happen, spoon or no spoon, but keep trying and keep things as calm as possible.
Encourage your children to express themselves calmly and confidently to get their point across. Let your teen know that you have heard and, most importantly, understood their point of view. Children and teenagers need to know their feelings matter so acknowledging them helps to enforce that their opinion is important.
Once everyone’s grievances have been aired, you can discuss ways to address the issues and work out practical, fair solutions. Now we enter the negotiation stage. Take no prisoners and drive the discussion towards a resolution that works. Yes, there will have to be compromise (there usually does when it comes to finding workable solutions) so make that clear to your children.
Children have a very strong sense of fairness and justice. Help your kids to find a fair solution. For example, if they’ve been arguing over whose turn it is to play Xbox, suggest a schedule that gives each child the same amount of access to the console. Try to be fair and avoid siding with any of your children during the discussions – the key here is to be as neutral as possible while you mediate.
Once you come to an agreement on how best to solve the argument in a fair and positive way, you can all have a think about what measures might need to be introduced to make this work. After all, a solution will only come to fruition if everyone involved agrees to play their part.
Together, you can agree on a fair schedule, timetable or a rules list to which everyone should adhere to. Tape it to the fridge or stick it on a wall where the whole family can see it. There may well be setbacks and the odd falling out along the way when one or more kids ignore the agreed rules or try to tweak them for their own benefit but keep going. If you have to sit everyone down and go over the whole thing again, so be it.
SET A GOOD EXAMPLE
Children will often echo the way they see you handle conflict so try to have healthy communication in any arguments you might have with, say, your partner. Healthy communication during an argument or heated exchange is saying “I’m upset about ______ and I feel this ____ because ______” and then allowing the other person to do the same. Not engaging (e.g., the silent treatment) or shouting and screaming are examples of unhealthy communication and these behaviours rarely resolve matters.
WHEN TO GET MORE HELP
If you feel like the arguments at home are getting out of control or are damaging to you or your child’s mental or physical help, reach out for more help. Family counselling and support can be accessed through a variety of channels – talk to your GP for further guidance or search ‘local family counselling services’ to find more help online.