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Sibling Squabbles

Working through these inevitable disputes

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Ground rules for kids – and parents

While fighting with brothers and sisters is normal, it's important for parents to recognize when hurtful words and behaviors cross the line. Arguments that become physically or verbally violent should be immediately addressed. Parents should be on the lookout for arguments that increase in intensity or frequency as well. Families should establish a set of "fighting fair" rules. Sagebiel says, "There should be a set of common guidelines within the family to make the playing field more fair and balanced for kids."

Once an argument has escalated, Dr. Carrie Caldwell, public education coordinator at Indiana Psychological Association, says parents should take a multi-step approach for addressing the situation:

1. Keep your cool. "Children imitate how they see parents respond to situations," says Caldwell.

2. Create a pause. More effective problem solving can occur if emotions can subside and children are calm.

3. Teach children problem-solving skills. Talk about solutions, rather than assigning blame.

4. Treat siblings as a unit. "When siblings are responded to as a unit, it decreases the focus on blaming and shifts the focus to figuring out a solution together," says Caldwell.

5. Utilize a "rewind." Once everyone is calm, have kids verbalize and behaviorally rehearse a more effective resolution.

By following a set approach to handling arguments, Caldwell says parents are giving their kids the tools to successfully handle disagreements in the future.

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Tags: Featured Article, Featured Article, In This Issue, Parenting

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