If there is one question clients ask me time and time again, it is, “How can I stop my children fighting with each other?” The short answer is, you can’t. Brothers and sisters, or brothers and brothers, or sisters and sisters, have always vied for a place in the family, and always will.
First borns can feel that their noses are put severely out of joint by the arrival of this cute baby, whom everyone adores and pays attention to. Once the sole focus of their parents’ attention, they now have to compete for it. Some never get over this.
So what can you do to make it easier? First, try to put yourself in your child’s position. They have had your undivided attention for any number of years – then suddenly their world is never the same again. Although you know that you love your first born just as much as you ever did, do they know? They are likely to equate the amount of time you spend with them to the amount you love them. And as we all know, new babies don’t leave much time for anything except looking after them!
As a busy parent, you may be just keeping your head above water. But try to give your children some one to one time; whether that’s a bedtime story, a game of football, or a quick play in the park. The eldest child often responds to responsibility, so make the most of that – ask them to help around the house or do something that makes them feel grown up. At the same time, encourage them to help, not annoy, their younger siblings! It is suggested that the overall intellect of first borns is generally higher than that of their younger siblings because they assume the role of teacher with younger siblings – this helps them develop their cognitive powers.
When they do fight, try not to intervene too often – unless they are about to draw blood. Sometimes children pick fights to get a parent’s attention, so ignore bad behaviour as much as possible, unless it gets out of hand and one child really is suffering. The classic advice of giving time and attention when a child is good does work – rather than that child only getting Mum’s or Dad’s attention when they are beating up their little brother!
Of course, you should explain that fighting or not sharing is wrong, but try to do it after the event, calmly, not in a fit of rage. And rewarding good behaviour always works better than removing privileges, or punishing punitively.
Finally – always tell them that you love them. It might be obvious to you, but to a child it may not be – so better to say it too often than not enough.
© Glynis Kozma 2008
Aspire Coaching provides professional coaching across the UK. Glynis Kozma is a qualified, experienced Life Coach with a Diploma in Life Coaching, and is a Member of the Association for Coaching.