In the best of families, siblings hit. In fact, children learn to hit early in life, taking out their frustrations by using the hand first. It isn’t necessarily something that is taught but rather learned as an effective way of problem solving. Big sis takes little brothers toy car and he will lash out with fingernails and a simultaneous scream that shouts, ‘I am tired of being bullied around here!’ Then, big sis retaliates because after all an eye for an eye seems to be the appropriate way of handling things. Then of course, there are mom and dad disciplining and becoming entangled in a bunch of mumbo jumbo about being the bigger person, acting your age, and resolving issues without hitting! Chances are it falls on deaf ears because kids learn early in life that while hitting siblings doesn’t exactly bring the type of attention they want, it does get attention and more importantly, is a quick release of frustration that matches their feelings. Then parents begin the life long battle of learning how to stop siblings from hitting each other.
In the early years, the hitting is pretty benign. They do it because they don’t know exactly how to handle a problem. They hit because they have been hit or scratched or pushed by other kids along the way. They hit because they are angry. They hit because they truly don’t realize that their actions can cause any sort of real pain or damage. In these years the appropriate parental behavior is to try and teach kids how to take the high road. Children should learn to ask for mediation from adults rather than handle situations themselves. Still, you have to realize that as they grow, mom and dad won’t always be there at school to help them sort things out. While aggressive in nature, often when siblings hit each other they are figuring out a pecking order of sorts that gives each child a sense of power. Normally, things are okay when it is the older child hitting the younger one. Parents can then explain that it isn’t right, that there are consequences to their actions and that inflicting pain is not the remedy. However, eventually the little guy will strike back then what?
Most parents agree that hitting to solve problems is NEVER the answer. There are also parents that encourage their children to never hit first but to strike back when necessary. This may not be the ‘way of the world’ as presented by parenting magazines; however, it can be a valuable lesson. This way your child isn’t always the one with the tears streaking down their face trying to find a teacher (who won’t really care) while the bully on the playground runs free with their ball. The truth for little kids is the same as it is with all adults. When people assert their power and display self-preservation, they are less likely to be walked upon. For kids in the house hitting is often part of this sensitive tactic.
When parents become extremely involved in the way their children get along or solve problems they often unwittingly steal their power and show favoritism to the younger sibling out of protection. But where does this leave the older one who is constantly succumbing to the will and desire of the annoying little guy? They will become resentful, feel that things are not fair, and start believing that mom and dad love the younger kid best. Most kids don’t understand at any age that there is a big difference between a 6 year old and a 12 year old. And they never will, because to the 12 year old the 6-year-old based on age alone is allowed to get away with everything but murder. So when you are trying to figure out how to stop siblings from hitting each other, it is wise to get down on your child’s level and try to recognize how they feel.
For the littler children in the house who are more prone to suffer from a blow by an older sibling they should be taught that when playing with fire they are bound to get burned. This doesn’t mean you condone the fact that your 5 year old hit your 3 year old in the head with a ball but rather that the two year old accepts some responsibility. If they are going to hit, pinch, push, and not give their older child respect, chances are the older child is going to strike back no matter what the rules are in the home.
Parents sick and tired of the constant elbows and punches being thrown whether in the mini van or in the living room, need to teach kids that hitting is not acceptable in your home. This means that some pretty strict rules need to be put into place that stands for ALL the kids in the house. Just because your 3 year old didn’t hurt your 10 year old doesn’t mean that it can go unpunished. If you keep the rules and consequences the same for all the kids, the issue won’t be of age or favoritism. The next thing is to give your child a way to outlet their anger. What happens when arguments or problems become physical is that parents become enraged (some even spanking) and tend to exasperate the problem. It’s stupid to try and teach your kids not to hit if you use spanking as a form of discipline. Instead, separate the kids and try to figure out the problem from both angles.
The last part of how to keep siblings from hitting each other is to give them other options. Remember they are angry, mad, and frustrated. Help them find their words and help them find solutions to the problem that don’t involve the strike of a hand. What works for each of your children will be different. Part of the reason not to hit for a kid has to be what will happen to them should they decide to do it anyways. However, your goal is to help your child deal with what they feel in the moment and give them ways to control it. When you notice that they do, they should be rewarded. What the real issue is is self-control. When you teach your children how to control themselves, they will be far better in the long run. This self-control may entail listening to your child throw a fit or buying them a punching bag to release their anger. They should be told time and time again that hitting can hurt people physically and emotionally until they understand this fact. Chances are your child doesn’t want to inflict injury, but just wants to get their way.
The truth is that in the how to keep siblings from hitting each other, parents have to realize that there is a place for such behavior within the family and within life. No, they shouldn’t resolve everything by hitting, pinching, or scratching but they also shouldn’t be completely free of any aggressive tendencies. Sometimes, the hit and the hitter gain more from the fight by being left alone to figure things out, than they would by a family therapy session on the couch where they draw out their feelings with crayons. And often, the hitting solves the problem in the quickest, most clear-cut manner possible. Parental interference sometimes makes it a bigger issue than it is. Obviously, parents can’t sit by and watch their kid’s man handle each other; but they do have to realize that with siblings, hitting is often part of the territorial battle.