A mom had a question regarding young children and fighting. She asked “What we would suggest in instances where the children have been fighting and you don’t see it and one child says one thing and other child another? One can come crying to you saying so and so hit me and the other child says no I didn’t. I’m just not sure how to deal with these types of situations when I didn’t see what happened?
I in turn asked two women who have a great deal of experience and wisdom in navigating sibling rivalry. Here are some suggestions:
- The mom needs to observe the outdoor playtimes closer. Just be frequently around them--outdoors while doing yardwork, or peeling potatoes on the patio, or whatever.
- Put them on a shorter leash, as in: “If you fight over a toy, that toy will be removed from both of you for the rest of the day.” or “Neither of you may use the slide until you have proven that you will be nice to each other on the slide. Meanwhile, the slide is off limits for the rest of today.”
- “If the two of you fight outdoors, you will be required to come indoors again until we can try it outdoors again after lunch with better kindness between you. It is a shame now to miss all those fun playing hours in the sunshine that you don't get at all in the winter. It is too bad you lose them in the summer, just because you didn't get along.”
- Well, since they are both alive to tell their story, it's probably not too serious. Likely the hitting did happen and the perpetrator either wants to one-up the other or is afraid of scolding or punishment and so says he/she didn't do it. I'd likely ignore that part and just mmmm-hmmmm to both and remind them to treat one another gently since they like to play together. If it continues or happens a lot, I'd probably make them play separately for a while and contemplate their navels, because if they are like my kids were, as one of my daughters once said, "I'd rather take my place in the fight" at the group popcorn bowl than go get a separate bowl for popcorn as mother suggested. They'll get bored alone and then can have another chance at playing together. One mother I know of would often just silently bring her kids a yummy snack when they were playing nicely together. Subliminal training.
Find many more practical thoughts in our book, Beyond Discipline: Train your child’s character.