Bethlehem Press

Monday, July 13, 2020

The Family Project: Ice-cream intervention for bickering children

Friday, May 8, 2020 by CAROLE GORNEY Special to The Press in Focus

Q. My three children ages 8, 11 and 13, constantly bicker. What can I do to keep them from fighting?

The problem here, according to panelist Joanne Raftas, is sibling rivalry. “The children are vying for the attention of the parents,” Raftas said.

This rivalry is normal, Erin Stalsiz said. “Siblings fight, and it is a normal part of growing up. You could let them work things out as long as they are not hurting each other. But if it gets out of hand, have parents take turns and limit the interaction amongst the children if they cannot get along,” Stalsitz said.

Panelist Mike Daniels takes the side of the children in the context of stay-at-home orders because of the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.

“The parent says she is tired of hearing the children bicker, but the children didn’t ask to be stuck at home with little to no contact with friends and other family members. It is likely they are also tired and bored and restless,” Daniels said.

If the parent gets frustrated with the bickering, it is OK to leave the room, as long as the children are safe, panelist Pam Wallace said. “Besides helping the parent, leaving removes the attention-getting factor,” said Wallace.

When bickering begins, Raftas recommended that the parent have all three children sit down, and then ask each child to speak one at a time while holding some object. The kicker is that after each child has had a chance to voice his or her opinion, the children, not the parent, has to come up with a solution.

“After they do this one time, they may not want to do it again, and so bickering will be reduced,” Raftas said, adding, “In this approach, the children are no longer getting the desired result of the parent taking sides or solving problems for them.”

Just for fun, set aside some time to play the quiet game, panelist Wanda Mercado-Arroyo suggested. “The parent may want to add the use of gestures to express feelings or communicate as a group while being quiet. No mean gestures, just happy ones. It may work for them,“ said Mercado-Arroyo.

When all else fails, Daniels said, “use the ice cream intervention.”

This week’s team of parenting experts are: Pam Wallace, program coordinator, Project Child, a program of Valley Youth House; Erin Stalsitz, Lehigh Children & Youth; Wanda Mercado-Arroyo, educator and former school administrator; Joanne Raftas, Psychotherapist, and Mike Daniels, LCSW, Psychotherapist.

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The Family Project is a collaboration of the Lehigh Valley Press Focus section and Valley Youth House’s Project Child.

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