My sister and I were talking about some of the ways that we discipline our children. I thought I would write a few posts that outline some of the techniques I have used through the years. Here is the first.
One of the fastest ways to make a mother’s stress level go through the roof is for siblings to fight with each other. With four kids,I have been through this many times. The kids are playing beautifully together, sharing, laughing, having fun. Mom walks out of the room and not more than 5 minutes later, someone is crying.
Over my 19 years of parenting, I have learned to handle this in what seems to be an odd, unfair way. I walk in and state the obvious. “I hear you guys are fighting.” At this point, the kids will usually both be trying to tell me what happened. Well, tell me what the problems is from their own viewpoint. I quietly put my hand up, palm out and say I don’t want to hear it. Then, I separate the guilty parties. One sits in a chair in one area, another sits in a chair across the room.
A couple points I want to bring out about this method.
- I do not try to figure out who is at fault. Parents can drive themselves crazy trying to figure out who did what and why. In my experience, there are no innocent parties. Very rarely is one child completely at fault. Even if one child has taken a toy away from another, the injured child will generally retaliate in some way.
- By making both children take a “time-out'”, no child feels that the other one is being favored. How many times have you heard teenagers and adults talk about younger brothers and sisters getting away with many things. When they are both being punished, there can be no favoritism. The older never has to feel like the baby got him into trouble.
- I do not yell. Because I am not refereeing between two kids, I can remain very calm. I simply state that because they are fighting they will have to be separated. They can yell and cry, and at the beginning of using this method they will, but I can just set the timer and go about what I am doing.
- After the timer rings, I bring the kids together. Again, I will not listen to who did what. I tell them that they need to apologize to each other and ask for forgiveness. Our own little formula for this is: Ben, “Rebekah, I am sorry for taking your blanket. Do you forgive me?” Rebekah then replies, “Yes, Ben I forgive you. I am sorry I tried to yank it back, do you forgive me? Ben then replies, “Yes, I forgive you.” Then they give each other a hug. If I am dealing with kids that are not in the same family, I do not require the hug, only the apology. And my preference is that they do not say “That’s ok” to the I ‘m sorry. Because really, it wasn’t ok. Also, I always make them state what they are sorry for. This points out what specific behavior was wrong.
- Then they are free to go play. If they begin fighting again, we repeat the process. After about twice in the same day though, I will separate them for the rest of the day. This means that Ben can’t play where Rebekah is and Rebekah can’t play in the same room as Ben. This is very effective as well. It just irks my kids when they can’t play with each other.
So there you have it, Jill’s “unfair” method of dealing with fighting. I have had four kids. I have used this method for many years. Eventually, the fighting extinguishes itself. The kids learn quickly that it is just not worth it to fight with each other. We now only have to go through this about once or twice a month. When your kids are smaller and very close in age, they will probably fight a little more often.
One of the biggest reasons I like this method is the no yelling. I hated to yell, and it did not help anything. Yelling only made me more upset. Another reason is because, if you try to referee and reason out what happened everybody loses. Kids do not really have the ability to reason until late elementary or older. Until then, they only want to see things their way when they are mad. I feel by separating both and making them apologize afterwards, they can calm down and think about how their actions hurt the other person.