I have a two-year-old and four-year-old who are constantly bickering! I have limited toys to one bin each. They start imaginary play with each other, which is great, but that turns into, "She touched me!" or one getting hurt. Do I keep them separate this age? I don’t want to constantly have to watch over them and correct every move they make.
You are right! You definitely do not want to constantly watch over them and have to referee the sibling warfare bouts.
Three Emphases: Do not allow tattling. That's a road that you do not want to start traveling. And try to avoid taking sides if at all possible. It is also important to avoid trying to find out what happened, who did what, etc.
Best strategy: The PeaceKeeping Place. There are three rules to the PeaceKeeping Place: First, make sure both children know that they are to never complain to mom or dad about one another; second, they are to keep conflicts to themselves - do not disturb anyone else; third, they are to make no attempt to physically hurt one another. I am aware that a two-year-old will not understand everything that you may say, but he will understand soon enough. When any one of those three rules is broken, put the offenders in a designated "PeaceKeeping Place"(PKP). This room (say, a small bathroom, laundry room, mudroom, guest bedroom, etc.), should be small so they can't avoid one another; and it should be boring so they won't distract themselves from the task at hand, which is for them to try and solve whatever problem precipitated the incident. Set a timer for 15 minutes, and when the buzzer sounds open the door to the PKP and ask, "Is the problem solved?" They will tell you it is, even though they may not have even talked to each other! If for some strange reason they say no, you simply confine them for another 15 minutes. There is one little caveat: if you notice that 90% of the time, the perpetrator is one child in particular, you may have to set him/her in the PKP alone, and tell him to "have a discussion with himself." But this should be a RARE exception, not the rule. An additional consequence? Take away the toy or book or object over which they bickered.
Many of the ideas of this strategy are taken from John Rosemond's book, "The Well-Behaved Child." Let me know how it all works out. Good Luck!
Mike Smart CLPC
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