When you have young children, siblings will argue and sometimes it will seem to us that it’s for completely irrational reasons. However, the way that we handle these disputes can make a big difference. Learning how to deal with frustrations and emotions is an important part of growing up, and little ones struggle with this as they develop.
The Jewish value of shalom bayit (peace in the home) was traditionally about maintaining marital peace, but in a contemporary sense has come to mean peace among all family members too. There’s no simple solution to peace in the home because each child is different and will react differently, so it’s worth having a few options at hand to try to keep the peace.
Tiredness and Hunger
When children are tired or hungry their moods can become highly fractious. Often, no one is in the wrong, but patience has reached an all-time low. At times like this it’s worth getting out some snacks if dinner is still a way off, or if tiredness is the issue, have a chat with them to calm things down and encourage them to do something more relaxing, like reading, or another quiet activity.
Sharing and Patience
Arguments are often about who has one thing instead of someone else, like the toy that they must play with immediately. At times like this there are two things you can encourage and discuss with your children: first, that sharing is important, so when one child has played with a toy for a while, it’s kind to let another child play with it, and second, the other child has try to learn to be patient and wait their turn. These are hard lessons for young children to learn and they will take time, but if you calmly persevere and encourage fairness, they will learn to share and to be more patient with each other.
Encourage Games and Role Play
Role play and creative games are great ways for siblings to play together and to explore some of their emotions. Children often play at being families, or pretend they’re at school, and this is effective for exploring the relationships and behaviours that children have and the difficulties that arise between them. Encourage role play by suggesting outfits to dress up in or props they could use. Children are also less likely to quarrel when they’re engaged in a fun task together and have their own role to play within it.
Know When to Intervene
Children can solve disagreements between themselves (depending on their age) however, there are times when arguments begin to escalate and you have to decide when they have gone too far. If your children are getting angry or aggressive, it’s time to separate them, calm them down, and then talk through the issues with them. Learning how to handle frustration and anger is a part of growing up, but children need help to learn how to express these emotions safely.
Be Grateful for Each Other
Expressing gratitude (hakarat hatov in Hebrew) is one of the fundamental skills that will help children respect, appreciate, and relate to each other. Explore ways to help your children to be more aware of each other’s feelings and also to be grateful for each other. Thinking of others is an important part of learning about our own behavior and how it affects the people around us. Do some creative activities to explore situations your children experience, and draw or write down how these situations might make each sibling feel. Encourage your children to explore the positives and the joy they share together too – they could draw pictures of happy days they’ve spent together and their favorite activities to do together.
Keep Them Busy
If children are bored they can become increasingly irritable and fractious. Make sure they have enough creative outlets to keep them engaged throughout the day, and get them outside to explore and play as much as possible.
November 20, 2019