“Mom! Didi is not letting me watch Tom and Jerry!” screams your little one. On the other hand, the older one shouts, “You’ve been watching for the last hour; I want to watch my shows too!” Thus begins another one of those fights that elicit from you an exasperated sigh. You would love to just continue with whatever you are doing instead of involving yourself in something so childish, something that will never really come to end no matter how many times you intervene. Even if you leave them to settle the fight by themselves, it might just be a matter of time before the verbal disputes reaches the level of fisticuffs, which will force you into intervening and separating them. It’s not easy being a referee for fights that involve your children because you are at a loss of being misunderstood as playing favorites or taking sides with either of the party. It is rather tough to walk the narrow middle path, but it is necessary. Here’s how to referee sibling rivalry and disputes.
Playing Referee For Sibling Rivalry
Here’s what to do when you have to play referee to sibling rivalry:
Take Seriously Or Not – That Is The Question
You should be able to clearly distinguish between the merely annoying and the truly alarming conflicts. Most kids bicker frequently, and parents can often guess when it is serious and when it need not be taken seriously. You can use this as a parameter – when you hear loud, screeching voices for a long period of time followed by porcelain items being thrown at each other, it is high time for you to get involved. Or else, there may be times when you may feel like biting your tongue and letting your children begin to learn how to deal with and end their disputes by themselves. While you may often have to oversee most of the fights between younger children, as they grow older and mellow down, you will have the luxury of maintaining some distance and detachment.
Speak Less, Listen More
It is always better to keep your ears and eyes open and be observant. Even during the times when you decide not to get involved, listen from a distance to find out how they are dealing with tensions. There are chances when one of them might threaten or bully the other, which is when you should ideally intervene. However, if they decide to forget or forgo it or, better still, negotiate to find a common ground, it is best to stay out of it, even if you do not agree with the outcome. Most children learn from failed consequences and solutions just as much as they learn from the effective or workable ones.
Let’s Talk It Out, Kids
Only when it is absolutely necessary, mediate stalemates between both the parties. Watch out for times when the kids are having trouble resolving disagreements on their own, which is when you may want to turn into a moderator, which is not the same as being a referee. A moderator will allow each party a time period of undisturbed voicing of its concerns, ask questions and only then ask each of them to accept the other group’s point of view. There are times when the process may seem time-consuming, depending on children's ages; however, as time goes by, children are more likely to get over with their disputes in a matter of minutes as they grow tired of negotiations and begin to look for something that is more fun than fighting and negotiating. Even a little bit of communication can introduce them to fair-minded conflict resolution, a skill of vital importance to adults.
Little Ones, Big Ones
If you are dealing with young children, it is best to divert them from their disputes. Toddlers or preschoolers who frequently end up in verbal or physical fights may just be working off steam and may be unable to discuss anything among each other or with an adult, especially when they are tired or ill. However, they can be easily separated from each other and kept from fighting. Sometimes redirecting their attention to another activity, like a video, is all it takes to solve the problem instantly. On the other hand, you can teach older children to respect other’s views. They have to learn to be good listeners and be sure they understand what the other person wants to say before they express their own opinions. Be sure to emphasize the value of reaching a compromise, a mutual settlement or a win-win approach so that every party comes away from a dispute feeling respected if not totally gratified or satisfied. Model a similar technique in your own conflicts at home or in public so that children can learn from your example.