My one-year-old can fight back – what to do when siblings fight

Source:  Magentafrog publications
Source: Magentafrog publications

Master 1 has been my easiest, most placid and easy-going baby.  He has a gentle nature and is curious and friendly.  He’s happy to play with others or just entertain himself pottering around the house pulling things out of the cupboards and putting them where they shouldn’t be.  His older brothers have long taken advantage of his kind nature to snatch toys off him, make him cry for fun and generally boss him around.

Master 1 has decided that enough’s enough and he’s turned the tables on his brothers.  He has taken the skills he’s learned to wrestle, grab, jump on their heads and push them over and run away laughing.  They only have themselves to blame for creating this little monster.

Source:  Magentafrog publications
Source: Magentafrog publications

I’m sure it’s common for siblings to fight.  I certainly remember my brother and me fighting and bickering and giving my parents some grey hairs.  And now I know how they must have felt.  It is frustrating and annoying to watch and hear fighting kids.  It’s stressful and it makes the tough job of parenting even tougher when it doesn’t have to be that way.

I’ve always wished for our boys to be best mates with each other and for the most part they are.  It’s beautiful to hear them say things like “Come and play with me ‘cos you’re my best friend”.  But it doesn’t last long and they swing between adoring and detesting each other!

My boys’ rivalry revolves around competing for toys and my attention.  I’ve noticed that as they reached different milestones and stages in development this has affected how they have related to each other.  For example, when Master 4 started pre-school he tried to impart his new-found knowledge about writing stories to Master 3, who was having none of it.  Master 4 was insistent and kept trying to force Master 3 to watch him “make a book”.  This led to Master 3 smacking Master 4 in the head and running away to me for protection whereby he reverted to using baby-talk (when he can speak very clearly).

They regularly vie for my attention and this is most evident between Master 3 and Master 1.  I am the centre of Master 1’s universe and Master 3 wants to explore the world but just doesn’t want to let me go just yet.  They push and shove to get onto my lap, squeal at each other and pinch each other to get their first.

It’s exhausting to have them constantly at each other and it’s rare that they are all getting along.  I don’t know how to stop the fighting or even know how to judge when I should be getting involved (of course I still have to be wary the big boys don’t seriously harm Master 1).  Mr Magentafrog and I try to resolve our disagreements by setting good examples for the children.  We try to be respectful and productive and not loud and angry with each other.  But we are not always this way with the children; but we try because we want them to get good habits from us to help them resolve conflict.

Some things that I’ve tried that sometimes work are:

  • When our boys start fighting I try to let them work it out but if it’s getting serious I’ll separate the offenders so they can calm down and think about their behaviour
  • I don’t try to work out who’s at fault
  • I try to help them work out a compromise e.g instead of fighting over this ball let’s all go outside together and kick it around.
  • Lock them outside to play and sit back and relax with a coffee!

I suppose it’s important that they learn that conflict is a fact of life.  They also need to learn how to value different points of view and how to compromise, negotiate and how to control their emotions.  I want them to know how they can assert themselves in a way that doesn’t hurt others.  However, equally I do not want them to back down if someone is hurting them.

Tonight before bed the boys and I raced cars around the printed race track on their floor mat.  I made car noises and squealed my wheels and won the race.  Then we danced to Katy Perry’s “Roar” and Master 4 twirled me around (for some reason he is fixated with Katy Perry but I don’t know how he knows who she is) then I picked him up and we ballroom danced.  I did the same for Master 3 while Master 1 climbed up the bunk-bed ladder.

Suddenly Master 3 pulled Master 1 down off the ladder backwards onto the floor.  Without missing a beat Master 1 pushed him over and put him in a head-lock.  Master 3 screamed like he didn’t know why this was happening . . . and so it goes.  One minute happy and perfect, the next someone is howling for no good reason.

Given their track record so far and despite their very different personalities, I don’t think any of them will back down; at least not from each other.

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