If you have kids that fight, you need to learn my travel tips for siblings that fight, so you can keep exploring too.
At the end of my life, I hope to die with a lifetime of memories, not dreams. Travel is above all my favorite way to create memories. But I have two daughters who fight like it is their job. I haven't let their constant bickering stop me from doing what I love. Instead, I learned from experience how to manage their behavior in order to continue exploring the world.
The best case scenario is to of course prevent any fight before it begins. My favorite tactic is to discuss thoroughly what actions each child is going to take to clarify expectations. If you can get your kid to say out loud what they should be doing it often keeps them from veering off the path and causing an unnecessary conflict with their sibling. I truly believe that siblings don't want to fight they are just fumbling around in life and haven't figured out how to function together properly.
Our brains work on a loop based on past experiences. If your children are constantly fighting than the fighting loop will play out no matter where in the world you are. Anytime you are in a moment of calm with your children, get them to list qualities they like about the other sibling. My older daughter, as an illustration, will repeat how funny she thinks her little sister is. While my younger daughter subsequently tells her older sister how much she loves her artwork. By concentrating on a positive instead of a negative they are building feelings of affection toward one another.
This is without a doubt one of my favorite travel tips for siblings that fight. It is amazing what making a silly face can do to de-escalate a situation. Be willing to stay silly. Stick your tongue out, cross your eyes, puff out your cheeks and you'll most certainly get a laugh. It takes two siblings to fight, so as long as you can get one sibling to engage with your playful diversion, you've won the battle.
Any parent traveling with two or more kids should be carrying a distraction bag of tricks. In your bag of tricks, you can have things like fidget spinners, masking tape, etch-a-sketch, Madlibs, and more. You might be thinking, why masking tape? Well, masking tape is the type of thing you would never let your kids play with at home, but out in public it can be ripped, stuck to things, and rolled up for endless fun. You can find great gear for your distraction bag of tricks in the Target dollar spot or the Dollar Tree.
It is so easy to let the majority of words we speak to our children be authoritative and negative. Spend time each day verbally praising any positive behavior you observe. Depending on the age of your child you might be praising putting the cap on a pen or holding the handrail on the stairs. All that matters is that your verbal praise will ensure your child feels noticed and valuable. When your child understands their actions are visible they are learning the social context of their existence.
Dish out rewards.
Encouraging good behavior from fighting siblings can feel like a constant battle of threats and rewards. If you've got multiple children you probably have noticed by now that threats and punishment are mostly just to make us feel like we are doing something. The negative reinforcement never changes future behavior. When you think about using rewards the easiest routes are toy and food based. However, there are tons of creative rewards for children. You can read some of my favorite positive behavior rewards on the With Caitlyn blog.
Most parents have some version of WTF eyes they flash at their children when they are misbehaving. There is no point in looking at your child with crazy eyes unless you can get them to look back and make eye contact with you. Whatever you do, don't break the eye contact. It is very difficult, although not impossible, for a kid to misbehave while maintaining eye contact. Keep the eye contact even if it means moving your body and putting down your cell phone. Children are way too used to staring at the tops of their parent's heads because cell phones hold our attention more than our own family. Put the phone down and parent your children.
Tip # 8
Use your presence.
Siblings often find time to fight because of absent parenting. That's not to say you're wrong to be in the other room cooking dinner. But the absence of an adult does seem to breed arguments. When you begin hearing the rumblings of an argument get close in proximity to the fight. Don't address the fight or even speak, just get near it to act as a deterrent. Remember, you're the parent and you are in control. Show up and make your presence known.
My husband and I have used the divide and conquer method on numerous occasions while traveling. On our first trip to Europe, we even left America from different airports and landed in the Netherlands within 30 minutes of each other. We take turns with one child waiting in line and occupying the other child with window shopping. Sometimes one child needs a nap while the other child needs food. If you've got multiple parents traveling with multiple children than you can switch off anytime a kid's needs are different from their siblings.
A common way to discipline children is by using natural consequences. For example, if a child spills a drink it becomes their responsibility to clean up the drink as a consequence. The cooperative jar is a natural consequence for siblings who fight. You can learn about how to make your own cooperative jar on the Millions of Miles blog. Although the cooperative jar started as research for Travel Tips for Siblings That Fight, it is now part of our everyday life.
Kids are simple creatures. They could be poking their sister or copying their every word because they are hungry. You might think it is absolutely crazy that they fight with their sibling instead of just telling you they want food, but that's because they lack self-awareness. Keep crackers, a granola bar, and a fruit leather on hand. Snacks don't take up very much room and they can be a lifesaver when siblings start getting on each other's nerves.
While I would love to claim to be a no screen time parent, that is just not reality. A LeapPad is my last resort to keep my sanity. It makes my list of travel tips for siblings that fight because it works every single time. Each of my kids has their own LeapPad in a different color. You can link the two game consoles together to share the same gaming cloud. Before each trip I let them both pick a few new games to download so they have fresh content to play with when I need some quiet.
Travel Tips for Siblings That Fight
My biggest advice for parents of siblings that fight is to not let their behavior prevent you from traveling. These twelve travel tips for siblings that fight will keep you sane on your next vacation. You need to practice these tips. It doesn't come naturally to try tactic after tactic during the increasing anxiety of siblings fighting. Make a checklist on your phone so it is always with you. Put the checklist as your screensaver. Go see the world with your kids, it is an amazing place.