How I Use “Collaborative Proactive Solutions” To Reduce Sibling Fights

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First I want to explain that I am not trained or certified by Dr. Ross Greene to teach his CPS model.  I am a parent that has read his books and attended a conference.  I am a Certified Parent Educator of Positive Discipline. For more information on Dr. Green’s approach, please go to These techniques have similarities, but today I am focusing on how I used the CPS model to fix (or attempt to fix, time will tell if this is the solution or if we need to try again) our issue of fighting in the car. My boys are 8 and 10.

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My boys often fight in the car, usually because someone is looking at someone else or touched someone else. This often leads to hitting and kicking while I’m driving. I am tired of it! So today we sat down, (after eating lunch and everyone was calm).  I set some expectations that I thought everyone could meet.  I explained that no one was to interrupt and that they were not to argue with each other because each of them have a different perspective and they would get a chance to explain their concerns and feelings.

I asked my youngest to tell me about sitting in the van and stretching his legs.  He explained that he gets uncomfortable in the van and likes to stretch his legs out to the side or cross his legs.  He does not mean to bump into his brother.  My oldest said that he feels annoyed when his brother’s feet touch him in the van.  I asked if there was a way to let his brother know that his feet are touching him without smacking them away.  They agreed that the oldest could use the word “feet” as a signal.  I will try to listen for the signal as well, in case the younger one doesn’t hear since he often uses headphones in the van.

We also needed to address the issue of each trying to prove the other wrong.  This is a very broad topic, so I used a specific example that had just happened.  They had disagreed over the size of a wasp that they saw in a window of a store.  I asked the oldest what his concern was when his brother disagreed on the size of the wasp.  He stated that he did not want his brother to think he was wrong because then he might think that he is not smart.  My youngest stated that his concern was that his brother would be wrong and it’s not ok to be wrong because that is dumb.  He then stated that he didn’t want to be told he was wrong and he was finished with the conversation.  I let him go to another room.  I continued to brainstorm with my oldest about what he could do to reduce the bickering since he had no control over his brother’s actions.  He stated that he was very concerned that if his brother didn’t think he was always right then he would not like him and they would not have a good relationship as they got older.  We talked about how it feels to have someone often try to convince you that they are right.  I expressed my concern that the constant fighting would lead them to not have a good relationship in the future.  I explained that the younger one often felt “less than” because he is the youngest, even amongst the cousins, he is the youngest.  (We have recently spent a lot of time with the older cousins).  I explained to my oldest that instead of trying to convince his brother how right he is, he could try using encouraging words and statements to him so that he feels valued and important.  He was surprised that his brother could feel this way since he said he always thinks of him as an equal and not a younger kid.  He was concerned about telling any “white lies”, he didn’t want to say something to his brother that wasn’t true.  I clarified that I just wanted him to tell him “good work” or “good job” when his brother was doing something.  He could also just tell him that he was happy that he was his brother, nice things like that.  We talked about how it’s nice to hear that you are appreciated, because even if you “know it” it’s nice to hear.  It was a big “light bulb” moment for big brother.  He never really thought his little brother could feel “little” (they are very similar in size).

So far they are getting along much better.  Time will tell if the situation in the van will improve, but I have hope that the gains in understanding and compassion will help all of their disagreements become less intense and more civil.

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