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Positive Discipline and Gentle Parenting for Children

Positive Discipline and Gentle Parenting for Children

Written by: Tan Su-Lynn, Senior Educational Psychologist

 

Positive discipline and gentle guidance are concepts which are not given enough recognition. In comparison to corporal punishments and other forms of authoritarian parenting, positive discipline aims to teach by first creating a safe relationship with children, putting connection before correction. According to recent neuroscience research, people learn best when they feel safe and connected to others, in the context of safe relationships. This helps to instil discipline with maximum efficacy in the long run. 

What does positive discipline bring to the table? Apart from building trust and strengthening parent-child relationships, it teaches children responsibility, self-discipline, problem-solving skills and cooperation. By ensuring that learning isn’t fear-based – such as in the context of authoritarian parenting – it also helps children build on their self-esteem, develop their sense of significance, as well as manage their emotions effectively. However, it is key to note that gentle guidance may not always yield immediate results. Consistency plays a crucial role, and over time, parents will notice their children actively apply what they have learnt. 

Positive Discipline Techniques

Redirection

This technique involves diverting your child’s attention to other activities when they are acting out, or when you’re trying to guide a child’s behaviour from inappropriate to appropriate. For example, if your child is running around in the kitchen while someone is cooking, stop them and introduce another item or toy that would be of interest to them. Rather than simply saying, “Don’t run in the house,” say, “ “It is not safe to run in the house. Please go outside if you want to run.” 

In addition, follow up with questions to confirm that he/she understands the boundaries (i.e what is and isn’t acceptable). Questions can include:

 “Is it safe to play in the kitchen while it is in use?” 

“Where else could you play instead if you feel like running?”

Such open-ended questions confirming boundaries can also initiate child-led problem-solving. 

With positive discipline, it is important that you describe the behaviour you want to see without lecturing, and whenever possible, let your child know what they can do, as opposed to what they cannot do.

Positive Reinforcement

Emphasise the positive things your child does. If you only pay attention to negative behaviour, you will end up reinforcing that behaviour. When your child does something worthy of praise, be sure to acknowledge it and give him/her recognition for it. Positive reinforcement is not limited to words of praise for good behaviour. In fact, rewarding your child with natural rewards can be an extremely effective method for encouraging similar behaviour in the future. For instance, if a child asks politely for a cup of juice instead of throwing a full-blown tantrum, consider giving a little more juice or even a nice topping to motivate similar polite requests in the future. Remember to point out what they did right and emphasise how you appreciate their polite behaviour. This kind of praise helps your child maintain a positive self-identity that they will want to live up to as well.

 

Natural Consequences

Punishing your child often can turn you into the enemy, fostering an unhealthy parent-child relationship. Many parents tend to punish their children in ways that are unrelated to the offence too, and this can be confusing or simply encourage their children to act in defiance. Where possible, allow the natural consequences of their actions to unfold. For instance, if your child throws a tantrum and refuses to put on a raincoat while it is raining, the natural consequence is that they would get wet. They will be far more likely to acquiesce the next time than if you respond with a time-out when a similar situation arises.

 

Time-in and Time-out

You may be familiar with the time-out consequence, a common disciplinary technique when a child has done something wrong. Solitary, boring time-outs can be effective when well-executed. However, research has shown that such disciplinary methods are best when occasional time-outs are paired with time-ins. Time-ins encourage good behaviour, and are carried out by having the parent spend quality time with the child after a bout of bad behaviour. Instead of lashing out at the child and sending them away, spend time with them and help them calm down if they are emotionally agitated. Once they’ve calmed down, it would be much easier to discuss better choices for the future, and encourage them to apologise for their bad behaviour. 

 

Paying attention to language use

Language is very important when it comes to disciplining a child. When anger strikes, it’s easy to get caught up in the heat of the moment. Be mindful not to use derogatory language or words of insult, as this can be hurtful and harm the child’s self-esteem. Moreover, try rephrasing your sentences. Instead of saying, “you messed up”, begin sentences with “I” statements. Convey how you felt about their behaviour rather than solely focusing on what the child did. This makes the approach to discussing the situation less critical, and allows the child to calm down and feel less defensive especially if their actions were unintentional. 

While gentle parenting is a brilliant method as a whole, it is still important that we do what we need to do if there is danger involved. For instance, if your child is running straight for a busy road, yelling or grabbing at them is completely valid and reasonable. 

All in all, remember to focus on encouragement and redirection of bad behaviour to appropriate alternatives. Positive discipline can go a long way, and it will certainly benefit both parent and child.

 


References: 

  1. https://srhd.org/media/documents/What20is20Positive20Discipline1.pdf (Accessed 15/07/2022)
  2. https://www.verywellfamily.com/examples-of-positive-discipline-1095049 (Accessed 15/07/2022)
  3. Photo by James X on Unsplash

 

Circular Causality in Family Issues: How to raise emotionally and mentally healthier children

Circular Causality in Family Issues: How to raise emotionally and mentally healthier children

Written by: Dr Mark Toh, Senior Consultant Psychologist

What Is Circular Causality?: Understanding Your Child’s Reactions

The American Psychological Association defines ‘Circular Causality’ as a sequence of causes and effects that leads back to the original cause and either alters or confirms it, thus producing a new sequence, as in a feedback loop.

This is an important concept that helps to explain certain interactions within relationships better. Relational patterns and rules between family members within the family system dominate how individuals interact and engage with one another. These rules are often silent, unconscious or multi-generational in nature. Within this system, the family operates according to some ‘thermostat’ which sets the ‘desired setting’ for how each member is expected or required to function. The functioning applies to how situations or people are viewed, how much self-disclosure is welcomed or permitted, how personal or interpersonal difficulties are addressed or not, how disagreements or secrets are to be dealt with, or what relational values are being promoted. Families in different cultures may operate with certain predictable rules or patterns, eg. within families sensitive to shame, avoidance or non-verbal disclosure, communication is often practised. Tapping into the honest emotions of members over time tends to reveal the ‘temperature’ within the family system.

Families nurture the psychological ‘birth’ of the sense of self within children during their childhood. In the process, parents shape within their children how young children will engage themselves (intra-personal relationship) to function in later childhood and adulthood (inter-personal relationships). Healthy relational patterns and appropriate rules are important to foster healthy emotional development towards an important psychological milestone for children: healthy identity formation. Because these patterns and rules are so fundamental in the shaping process, it is important for parents to understand how they can shape their children towards this healthy identity. If not, the child could begin a life-long struggle from having accepted an identity that is diffused, confused or distorted in nature. This is usually accompanied by secondary effects of this outcome, eg. a pattern of difficult or troubled relationships with others. This usually adds additional distress to the sufferer and to those who relate to them. 

Instead of understanding interactions within relationships along a linear continuum where there is a definitive start and end, circular causality opens up to appreciating the relational context where interactions can be examined between two events in more useful detail. With an understanding of circular causality, understanding the interactions between two or more individuals can better reveal where an interaction can get stuck. This pattern occurs in all relationships but it is especially within ongoing relationships where being stuck in a negative cycle can lead to particular disappointments, hurt and pain. For children, unhealthy patterns and rules within families can undermine the child’s emotional development over time.

Circular causality is particularly useful to explain conflicts between family members which can become persistent and damaging. Persistent hurts can undermine relationships and lead to how negative expectations of each person are viewed and engaged with over time. They are a concern because of the prospect of children’s sense-of-self being hurt or damaged within certain family systems. Therefore, careful attention is usually necessary in understanding the attribution of cause-and-effect of what is problematic between family members.

Individuals attribute cause and effect or causation in situations and within relationships. Linear cause and effect of A 🡪 B 🡪 C are defined by a specific start and end point. Individuals who operate from understanding relationships based on linear causality tend to assume that problems are caused and maintained by the other individual’s beliefs, biology, emotions or other abnormal factors within the individual, i.e., they are self-generated. Therefore, solutions are found when the individual in question changes their beliefs or emotions within them to respond differently to the situation.

In contrast, circular causality refers to the reciprocal relationship between two events. Family members influence each other in a continuous process within a feedback loop. A vicious cycle is often present when two or more family members have relied on unchecked assumptions to carry out their attributions of cause-and-effect in the situation. The perspective of reciprocal relationships stems from the foundations of cybernetics, which refers to the regulatory action where one part of the system impacts another. Events usually do not happen in isolation. There is a feedback loop which tend to result in a new equilibrium. It is more that A 🡪 B 🡪 A. 

 

Case Studies

Case 1:

Susan refuses to go to school and goes into her room. Mom and Dad raise their voices and lecture her. When they raise their voices, Susan isolates. Mom and Dad’s frustrations or anger heighten Susan’s need for isolation, and Susan’s isolation heighten Mom and Dad’s anxiety, and therefore their escalation.

For parents who operate on assumptions of linear causality, their perception can easily overlook other reasons to explain the child’s original presenting problem, eg. Susan may be bullied at school, she has an unhappy relationship with her teacher, or she may be afraid of facing exams but is afraid to tell anyone. Parents who operate based on linear causality tend to see their child as the source of the problem, and to overlook their contribution or other reasons leading to the child’s presenting problem.

Instead of being quick to judge the situation as the child choosing to misbehave, parents should focus first on establishing a safe, trusting relationship with their daughter before their intervention.  They can raise concerns about what their child may be fearful of with empathy. The following statement could be as follows, “Hey Susan. You usually would enjoy attending school. But something unpleasant or uncomfortable may have happened to make you afraid of returning to school. I remember that when I went to school, I have at times been uncomfortable going to school because I was afraid of meeting someone I did not like, or having to face an exam I was not prepared for, or having to face a teacher who was mean. Can you tell me what is going on for you at school that you are uncomfortable facing? I will like to help you.” 

Case 2: 

John struggles in completing his homework and his poor grades. The father Mr. Lim responds to him with harsh criticism. Hurt and demoralized by his father’s criticism, John does not put in his best effort at school. His father’s criticism then intensifies and John puts in even less effort to learn. 

Family difficulties are often not rooted by a simple mistake made by the child (mistakes are common for children and instrumental for how they learn).  In this scenario, the father’s response to John may be reflective of how Mr. Lim was regarded as a child himself by his own parents when he was growing up. Criticism then is an extension of how he was treated as problematic as a child (to regard himself as stupid, inadequate, irresponsible) so as to repeat the cycle here. Without knowing all this history, John becomes hurt and angry against his father’s accusation. He can try to defend himself and retaliate with, “I am not useless. You are.” Mr. Lim who is outraged by John’s apparently disrespectful reply can bear down on John for what he considers to be John’s defiance to intensify his attack: “You are not only useless but disrespectful.”  This pattern can then set up a loop that becomes self-perpetuating or self-reinforcing based on their view of each other. John is seen by his father not only as stupid or irresponsible, he is also viewed as disrespectful and defiant. In turn, John sees his father as unloving and hurtful whom he needs to distance himself from. If they had a positive relationship earlier in John’s life, this relationship can deteriorate over time if the underlying issues are not addressed.   

In reciprocal relationships, circular causality is often revealed in the course of the interplay between emotional experiences, false or valid expectations and eventually how we experience each other. It often reveals how one or both parties perceive and interpret their individual world, and there is usually a historical reason  behind their perception. Our current experiences, perspectives and approach to relationships are often already influenced or shaped by our previous significant relationships with our family-or-origin and culture. 

[ In this situation, Mr. Lim should be advised to consult a child clinical psychologist when he sees no improvement with his son’s behavior. He needs to be alerted to the importance and quality of the parent-child relationship in impacting the child’s self-esteem, emotional conditions for what children need to thrive and the nature of the unconscious. If Mr. Lim was armed with the appropriate knowledge and possibly obtain personal help to address his relationship with himself as defective or inadequate, he could approach his son with, “Hey son. Studying in Singapore can be challenging or difficult. The workload can be heavy and the material can be difficult. I struggled with it too when I was a student. What struggles are you facing at the moment?” ]

 

Case 3

In the midst of ongoing conflicts between parents, their child Ben develops anxiety because the two people he loves appear to be hurting each other. Ben acts out with anxiety and/or depression, eg. temper tantrums, excessive withdrawal from school or play, trouble at school. This draws the attention of his parents who attend to him. In the process, their own conflict decreases. From this, Ben learns that he can influence his parents’ conflict through his anxiety. 

Circular causality helps to explain why family members may be stuck arguing about the same subject every time through communication traps or failures. Understanding cause & effect on a linear perspective in relationships can result in an artificial understanding: one cause & one effect or multiple causes & the same effect. In this scenario, Ben’s parents may wish to see Ben as having difficulties coping with school. Their solution may be to improve Ben’s responses to become more resilient. But if Ben attempted to communicate his difficulties with his parents’ conflict, they may not wish to believe that they contribute to his struggles. In so doing, they fail to capture the root of the problem for what it is. A child’s struggles may be defined by their parents because the child’s limitations reflects the parents’ limited emotional insights on themselves or their children. This lack of emotional insight and understanding is often expressed through circular causality to reveal that children can be misunderstood often and that the parent-child relationships can often be negatively impacted.  The parents’ own limitations are often overlooked in the situation.

Repeated over time, the negative rituals expressed in circular causality can be locked in place by ignorance, emotional hypersensitivity, defensiveness, contempt for one or more family members, hopelessness, hurt, anger, blame, fear and avoidance or stonewalling. Emotional cut-offs may be used frequently. If this happens, the effects of circular causality in an unhealthy family system can be experienced as intolerable. If there was previously a positive bond that bound the relationship, it can now be worn down by pain and the relationship may become damaged.

In this situation, the parents should consult a clinical psychologist familiar with children and family issues when they notice their child struggling with school or presents with anxiety in the midst of their conflict. 

How To Break The Cycle

Raising healthy children require establishing healthy relationships and healthy boundaries. Because the goal of raising healthy children is so worthwhile and essential to their future growth and success, parents need to be concerned that their relationship with their children are not defined by misunderstandings and conflict which are painful. To foster family unity and raise healthy children, three important values and practices are essential to promote certain patterns and rules in the family system: 

  1. Parents need to learn about child development. They should also remember that children function at a disadvantage because they tend to lack the emotional insight to explain their fears, their confusion, and what they need. Subsequently, children often have difficulty articulating what they feel or need. They need parental help to develop their emotional insight and offer them a broad emotional vocabulary to learn to express and communicate themselves clearly and honestly. When this is offered by parents who are emotionally mature and aware, intentional to raise children in their best interests, and when these parents are trusted by their children, the groundwork is being laid for the healthy formation and development of the child’s emerging identity.
  2. Parents need to develop the courage to have honest conversations with each other and their children. This courage needs to be accompanied by the believe that each member has important value so that each person is treated with respect. With courage and respect, each person can be approached with caution about making inaccurate or false assumptions of each other, and engaging in a self-serving bias. Being honest and courageous is important to clarify if inaccurate attributions are being made. Being ready to listen without judgment prior to making honest inquiries would further help to avoid misunderstandings or address misunderstandings when they occur.
  3. The willingness to develop healthy emotional intimacy promotes the value of sharing for each family member to know one another and to being known by the others in the family. This offers the basis for bonding and closeness. When communication is constructive, affirming and respectful, it can establish the sense of security within children and trust between family members. For children, this is particularly important since secure attachments contribute significantly to the child’s emotional development and mental health. This in turn offers a basis for them to acquire a healthy approach to future relationships and healthy functioning.

    To promote relationships which are safe and nurturing, words are powerful to convey that each family member is highly valued. They should be deliberately selected to promote each other’s well-being. Having a pattern of honest and constructive communication with healthy rules where individuals are affirmed and supported help to promote a family system where each member can safely practice saying what they mean and mean what they say. Misunderstandings are not left to stay but are promptly corrected. This offers the most fertile ground for healthy personal and interpersonal growth to happen. When parents notice they have difficulty delivering these practices, they should consult a clinical psychologist.

 


References:

American Psychological Association. (n.d.). Apa Dictionary of Psychology. American Psychological
Association. Retrieved October 22, 2022, from https://dictionary.apa.org/circular-causality 

Kerr, M. E., & Bowen, M. (1988). Family evaluation: An approach based on Bowen theory. W W Norton & Co.

 

Anxiety and anxiety disorders in children: Time to talk about it

Anxiety and anxiety disorders in children: Time to talk about it

Anxiety and anxiety disorders are not an ‘adult-only’ thing – children are capable of experiencing these too, and we shouldn’t dismiss or trivialise their feelings.

Anxiety is a common feeling for many of us. It’s that uneasy feeling of nervousness, worry, dread, and fear that we experience in certain situations. You might have felt it before a job interview, while you’re in the labour room (even if you’re not the birthing parent!) and probably on your child’s first day of school. The occasional anxious feeling isn’t exactly a bad thing – in fact, it’s perfectly normal and beneficial to a certain extent. Healthy levels of anxiety function as a warning signal during dangerous situations, prompting us to react or flee to protect ourselves.

However, some people may experience overwhelming levels of anxiety to the point where it interferes with their daily life and relationship with others. In this case, professional help is highly recommended as intense and prolonged feelings of distress aren’t great for anyone and may be attributed to an anxiety disorder. And we’re not just talking adults – anxiety disorders may also develop in children.

Senior Clinical Psychologist, S C Anbarasu & Senior Psychologist Jane Low, share their thoughts about this with Honeykids Asia. Follow the link to read on:

https://honeykidsasia.com/anxiety-in-children/

SIBLING RIVALRY: Why it happens and how parents can respond to it

SIBLING RIVALRY: Why it happens and how parents can respond to it

Written by: Dr Mark Toh, Consultant Clinical Psychologist

Sibling rivalry is a conflict between brothers and sisters that go beyond simple disagreements between two or more parties because of individual differences and different opinions on a subject. Starting from as early as the birth of the second child, sibling rivalry usually involves jealousy and competition between siblings which can show up as fighting on a frequent or routine basis. It is usually frustrating and stressful for parents who do not understand human psychology or the basis behind relationship conflicts. They are often at a loss as to how to respond to the ongoing conflict between their children.

Since sibling rivalry often shows up from early childhood, the following forms of sibling rivalry behaviour are often displayed in response to each other:

  • name-calling,
  • blaming,
  • poking,
  • stealing things,
  • lying,
  • challenging a belief,
  • arguing,
  • simply looking at each other (with the intent of intimidation)
  • tattling,
  • breaking something that belongs to the other one,
  • hitting,
  • throwing something at the other one,
  • hiding something that is important to the other person.

 

Reasons for sibling rivalry:

  • Children may feel their relationship with their parents is threatened by the arrival of a new baby. They were the centre’ of their parents’ attention until the new baby arrived. Now the new arrival is seen as a competitor for the parent’s attention.
  • Children feel they are getting unequal amounts of a parent’s attention, discipline, and responsiveness. Their sense of value is measured based on their evaluation of their parent’s attention to them. So they compete to be favoured.
  • Children who struggle to differentiate and individuate as unique individuals do not yet recognize their personal power except through conflict and competition with each other. It shows up as a power struggle.
  • Children who are hungry, bored or tired are more likely to become frustrated and start fights.
  • Children may not know positive ways to get attention for a sibling or how to start playful activities, so they pick fights instead. 
  • Children’s developmental stages affect how mature they are and how well they can share a parent’s attention and get along with one another. The less mature sibling may be more likely to want their parents’ attention as an all-or-nothing need focused on them and not their siblings. This immaturity is expressed as an either-or view instead of being able to adopt the view of both-and (ie., both being important). As such, their level of emotional maturity is showing in their attempts to resolve their attempts to negotiate with each other to resolve their conflict.
  • Each child feels the need to compete with each other to define who they are as an individual. As they discover who they are, they may uncover their own talents, activities, and interests. Sibling rivalry shows up as their struggle to separate, differentiate or individuate from their siblings while feeling inferior or superior along the way in contrast to their sibling.
  • Stress in children’s lives can shorten their fuses, and decrease their ability to tolerate frustration, leading to more conflict.
  • Stress in the parents’ lives can decrease the amount of time and attention parents can give the children and increase sibling rivalry. 
  • Family dynamics play a role. For example, one child may remind a parent of a relative who was particularly difficult, and this resentment may subconsciously be projected on their child to influence how the parent treats that child so that the child is regarded as, eg. the ‘black sheep’ or ‘the problem child’ vs. the idealized. The problem-child view can be accepted by the other siblings from the parents and then be regarded accordingly. Similarly, if a parent simply has a favourite child among their children, maybe because the child is regarded as more socially, academically or physically attractive among the children, this can foster jealousy, resentment and competition between the children.
  • How parents treat their kids and react to conflict can make a big difference in how well siblings get along. Children often fight more in families where parents think aggression and fighting between siblings are normal and an acceptable way to resolve conflicts. 
  • Not having time to share regular, enjoyable family time together (like family meals) can increase the chances of children engaging in conflict. The absence of an emotional bond between the children can increase the likelihood of conflict.

 

Other factors that influence sibling rivalry:

  • Birth order: for example, it is common that the oldest and youngest child often receive the most attention while the middle children often feel overlooked (eg. the oldest being celebrated by the parents or extended family as the first-born; the youngest being celebrated as the ‘baby’ of the family).
  • Spacing between the children: when spaced further apart, there is usually less competition; when spaced more closely, there tends to be more.
  • Temperamental differences: temperamentally easy babies tend to be liked more while more difficult ones are experienced as more annoying.
  • If parents choose as a favourite or respond differently to their children, this can also spur more jealousy and competition or intensify competition between them.
  • Gender: in some families, a child of one sex is preferred over the other.
  • Physical influences: children who share a room may argue more due to being in constant close proximity with each other; a child who received more attention due to an illness or physical disability may leave siblings feeling neglected or ignored.
  • Parenting style or approach: Children with very permissive and overly harsh parents tend to fight more –permissive parents may not operate with adequate rules so children feel they have to settle their conflicts by themselves without guidance; overly harsh parents who are strict or harsh tend to model aggression to their children to get their needs met. The best outcomes show up with parents who have acquired what has been described as the authoritative approach.
  • Age of the children: as children mature and reach later developmental stages, sibling rivalry tends to decrease.
  • Transitional times: sibling rivalry tends to intensify when there are changes in the family, eg. the birth of a new baby, when a baby becomes mobile, when a sibling goes off to school, when a sibling leaves the family for college or marriage, if there is a divorce or a remarriage. 

 

How to respond as parents?

With this knowledge already outlined, parents can lookout for ways to parent more intentionally. Firstly, they have to desire for their children to get along or be positive or loving with each other in the family. Interventions can then be planned for. They can be preventative or when conflicts occur, facilitate to address the identified need or help resolve the conflict between the children. For example, understanding how the birth order could raise the possibility of jealousy between siblings, or the prospect of one child being favoured over another, the importance for each child to be valued and appreciated as unique is an important practice. Also, parents need to watch how they manage their own conflicts as their children view them as role models for life learning. At the same time, they can remain optimistic when they realize that some sibling rivalry is inevitable and that as children mature and learn ways to handle conflicts, the rivalry will usually subside. The younger they are, the more parents are called on to be a referee. Probably the most help needed to be directive with the children is 4 years or younger. Here are some useful strategies to help children manage their conflicts:

 

  • Communicate the basic message that includes:

 

    • Acknowledgement that they both want their way by arguing with each other rather than to cooperate.
    • Hitting each other, calling each other names or bullying is not going to work.
    • They both have needs in the situation and they have to find out how they can both be acknowledged and met but without fighting.
    • Find out how to do this by themselves of you will decide on their behalf in a way they may not like.

 

 

  • Establish rules for managing the conflict. 

Having rules in place is a way of communicating your family values. So the parent needs to decide what behaviours are important and what they wish to enforce. This is an effective preventive strategy.

    • Handling conflicts and anger
      “No hitting, use words to say what you are upset about.”
    • Family Values/morals
      “We treat each other with respect.”
    • Parents’ role when there is conflict
      If I get involved, I will determine the outcome.”
    • Hurt or property is damaged
      Whoever caused the hurt or damage must make amends.”
    • Personal possessions and boundaries
      “We don’t take someone else’s things without asking first.”
    • Complaining
      “No complaining to get someone in trouble; you can “tell” to get someone out of trouble.”  For example, a child telling his mother that his sibling just entered his room without permission.
    • Cooperation
      “Work it out between you two or if I get involved, neither of you might like what I decide.”

 

  • Conflict Resolution
    Sibling rivalry highlights the need for children to be taught the skill of conflict resolution. When they are young, the parent will have to walk them through the whole process after each conflict. In time, they will be able to resolve their conflicts with their siblings and others on their own. In summary, this process involves each child learning to express his point of view and listening to the other child’s point of view, generating a number of possible solutions that work for each of them, choosing one solution, and trying it. It encourages listening for and the expression of feelings to understand each other to discern what they both need. In this practice, it fosters the development of the sense of mutuality, and promotes the practice of collaboration and cooperation. 

    This skill helps your children to navigate current and future relationships with their peers. It is useful throughout their life.  It can equip them to be emotionally and relationally competent and capable as they see that they can come up with solutions to problems in relationships without fighting.

    But in order to engage in a problem exploration process, the children must be calm enough to dialogue. Time out may be called until both are calm enough to proceed. 
    The parent also has to model for their children when it comes to handling conflict. The lesson is obviously more powerful when the parents practise this themselves.

    Use “fair fight” rules yourself.

    • Use cool off times to calm down first; then re-enter the situation.
    • Give second chances and opportunities to make amends.
    • Listening well: seek first to understand, then to be understood. In order to seek to understand, we must first learn to listen (Stephen Covey’s 5th habit of highly effective people).

 

  • Attitudes and additional strategies that help to encourage health sibling relationships:

 

    • Expect many episodes of sibling rivalry.
    • Treat your children as the unique individuals they are.
    • Do not show favouritism.
    • Stay calm and objective.
    • Recognizing the need is important in discussing ‘fairness.’
    • Don’t look for someone to blame or punish. Take personal responsibility to communicate well with each other.
    • Don’t get in long discussions about what happened (it can act as a reward for their arguments)
    • Establish basic relational rules: encourage communication, listening and understanding of feelings with empathy, taking turns.
    • Reinforce and remind them of a list of basic rules: “You can express your feelings to communicate clearly without having to be hurtful;” ”Use your words and not your fists;” “Speak to them in the way you would like to be spoken to.”
    • Encourage the children to solve their problems: be creative to find out “What would work for you both?”
    • Be aware of developmental stages: very young children find it hard to share as they need to have a sense of possession before they can share.
    • Don’t referee a fight if you don’t know what happened.
    • Do not allow your children to pit one parent against the other. Discuss privately and directly between parents if they disagree with a parenting decision made by the other.
    • Do not bemoan to the children that they “fight all the time” (or they will live up to this pronouncement).
    • Reward them verbally for their efforts at collaboration to promote a loving or positive connection between themselves. Valuing them verbally models for them to value each other. This also promotes both their self-esteem.

These attitudes are commonly practised by parents who embrace an authoritative approach to parenting. But when the conflicts get out of control and do not stop, get professional help. The relational skills children learn in childhood is what they practice with as adults. The ability to be effective in relationships is crucial to personal success later when children grow up to marry, have families of their own or at work.

 


References:
Coping with Sibling Rivalry —https://centerforparentingeducation.org/library-of-articles/sibling-rivalry/coping-sibling-rivalry/

Sibling Rivalry —https://www.mottchildren.org/posts/your-child/sibling-rivalry#:~:text=Sibling%20rivalry%20is%20the%20jealousy,frustrating%20and%20stressful%20to%20parents.

Photo by 傅甬 华 on Unsplash