The following thoughts have been floating around in my mind for some time now, and so rather than my usual learning focussed post I thought I’d share my views on siblings fighting. You see in our house (as in many others) we seem to go through phases where we have a lot of screaming, shouting, squabbling, whining, stomping off… I could go on with many more terms but you get the idea!
There is very little physical fighting, aside from the odd tug of war over a toy, the occasional scratch from little L, but I have slowly come to the conclusion that all this confrontation is a good thing. That isn’t a ‘typo’, I really have. Those who know me know that I do always try to see the positive in a situation (and equally, I know that this can be annoying to some!) so perhaps I am looking at this with my usual optimism but I think these ‘fights’ are symbolic. Here’s why…
When my boys are fighting it means they are not sitting passively, they are engaging with one another and the argument has usually ensued because they are trying to move forward in their play. It may be that there has been a disagreement over how the play is unfolding; should the blue guys be on the horses or on foot whilst defending the castle for example. What way should the chairs face when turning the dining chairs into a plane? My favourite was the argument over whether the crash landing had happened in the sea or on land, consequently what the correct rescue plan should be… These things matter! It is so easy for us as parents to get cross or get involved but if we can bear the ‘shoutiness’ they usually find a solution. They develop the skills to compromise, resolve, negotiate. Skills they would not develop if I was having a quieter life!
When there is a heated disagreement it means they are comfortable to explore and express their true feelings. It means I have created a safe environment in which they can do this. This, in turn is good for their self esteem and means that they will be able to deal with conflict outside of the home in a slightly less dramatic way, having experienced the effects of their emotional reactions in the safety of their own home.
So when my boys are fighting I have to remind myself of the skills and emotional literacy they are acquiring. I am now trying, when they come to me, to steer them back to one another. To face one another and explain what was upsetting rather than expect me to solve the problem. This restorative technique is key to conflict resolution: Explaining your feelings and the impact of the actions of another on your own feelings, without sounding accusing. Difficult for adults, so especially difficult for a 4 and a 7 year old.
When they are fighting I am now trying to remember that this will lead to them having self-awareness, a recognition of their own feelings and in time they will know how to manage them. They will, I am sure develop the ability to stay calm when angered, they will develop empathy, and eventually employ self-discipline in order to harness their seemingly out of control emotions.
When my boys are fighting I have to remember the same level of self awareness and self discipline. You didn’t think that first paragraph was just describing the boys did you?!