By Debra Collins, Family therapist
My two boys are in kindergarten and third grade. They constantly argue. I have tried so many things. I have even separated them by giving them their own rooms so each one has his own space. It hasn't really helped. I would like to know: Is this normal and how should I go about disciplining them?
Giving each of your sons his own private space was a great start, but as you mentioned it didn't solve the problem.
There are multiple causes for sibling squabbling and some amount of it is common. Often siblings have competitive needs and temperaments and it helps to look at their issues from a developmental perspective.
For example, a kindergartner is more eager to please and may still want mommy, but a third-grader is seeking more independence and has more school challenges. While the third-grader may also at times want his mommy, it suddenly is perceived as babyish and he may resent the sibling who gets mom's attention more freely. These may not be your children's issues, but this perspective may clarify what developmental needs are not being met.
You might also try making once-a-month dates with each child so each can have your undivided attention.
Try weekly family meetings to go over the rules of family life, such as chores, routines and schedules. It is also important to review your expectations about their behavior and the consequences of not adhering to it. Sibling difficulties can be addressed at this time as well. Many siblings fight over who owns what and what is to be shared. At the meeting you can clarify this and the natural consequences of undesired behavior.
We are not born knowing about conflict resolution; it is a learned skill. As a family you can decide how you are going to resolve conflicts and problem-solve appropriate solutions. How you model this behavior in your day-to-day life helps them get a sense of how you want them to resolve their differences. For more ideas, check out Siblings Without Rivalry: How to Help Your Children Live Together So You Can Live Too by Adele Faber and Elaine Mazlish.
Advice from our experts is not a substitute for professional diagnosis or treatment from a health-care provider or learning expert familiar with your unique situation. We recommend consulting a qualified professional if you have concerns about your child's condition.
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