Mr 4 (something like): ‘I had the tricycle first; I put my toys at the back’ [the tricycle has a little basket to carry stuff at the back]
Me: ‘What happened?’
Mr 2 says something like ‘No, I had it first’/’I want the tricyle’
Me: ‘Mr 4, come back, please.’
[Mr 4 cycles back to the living room; I may have asked him/them again what happened to understand but can’t remember]
Me: ‘You both think you had it first. What should we do?’
Ismi: ‘I don’t have any ideas’
Me: [feeling stumped…sticky sibling situations are like, my whole life as in they occur so frequently and sometimes, I just don’t know what to do…I don’t wanna just solve it for them…they both seem intense/unhappy at this point]
Me [lightly and jokingly]. ‘Maybe we should cut the tricyle in half?’
Mr 4: ‘Oh, I know [he now responds lightly, the intensity of a few seconds prior, just gone; he begins to keenly take his toys out of the basket) ‘Mr 2 can sit on the back of the tricyle and ride with me!’
Me: [something like]: ‘That’s an idea! Mr 2, do you wanna do that?’
Mr 2: [who was upset and cuddled up to me, a few second before, now excitedly says] ‘Or I can ride my scooter and we can race!’
Me: ‘Mr 4, Mr 2 wants to ride his scooter and race!’
And then they both rode off and played on their vehicles together, happily!
It’s often not easy to do this. To just say what we see: ‘you both want this’ and then facilitate problem solving. I knew they couldn’t cut it in half but I wanted to a) get the potential solutions going and b) see if a little humour would work…and alhamdulillah, it did, in this instance; it shifted them from intense and a bit disinterested in the process to coming up with ideas enthusiastically.
I love to hear them in their room playing together and at times, negotiating issues based on some variation of the above drill that we’ve done many times. Even though, I sometimes butt in and lay down my law more often than I’d like…instead of trying to hear them both out (a challenge for me…because the above method is often longer, and requires more patience and self-regulation). Still, I love it when it works…and when I hear bits of it serving them, without my input. It seems to better for their relationship, too. It points out the problem (instead of them thinking of each other as the problem) and then they can seek solutions that work for them both (win/win) Insha’Allah W’Allahu a’lam.
Learnt from ‘Peaceful Parents, Happy Siblings: How To Stop The Fighting And Raise Friends For Life’ audiobook by Dr Laura Markham; and also, from a Siblings webinar from The Parenting Junkie (www.theparentingjunkie.com)