It is frustrating to watch our children bicker and fight with each other. Even siblings who are the best of friends can battle it out. Sibling rivalry is a part of growing up, but the arguments and physical battles are stressful to witness.
There are various ‘families’ of thought on how to manage conflicts between siblings. Some say to allow the children to work it out amongst themselves. Don’t intervene. Others believe that intervening and micro-managing those situations is the best approach to help children learn to get along.
Somewhere in between lies our responsibility to teach our children communication skills, conflict resolution techniques, and anger management. In addition, it is our responsibility to ensure that are our children are not bullying each other - emotionally or physically. It is also important to note that even with efforts to teach and model the above, sibling rivalry may still be present in the home.
Competition between siblings is normal and an important part of growing up. Arguments are also par for the course and can hold valuable lessons for children - when maneuvered properly. Negotiating and the art of compromise are skills to be taught.
Understanding and embracing the benefits of this competitiveness will help you manage and tolerate it much better.
Understanding some of the reasons for the competition or rivalry between your children will ease your mind when it arises in your home:
In order to understand what your child is experiencing, view the argument or conflict through her eyes. It will help you empathize with emotions and perceptions that are leading to the behavior.
Your child is trying to define his unique space in the family. Sometimes, this exploration and discovery causes friction between siblings.
When your child - even your older child - is tired or hungry, his behavior and mood can be effected. You may notice a normally patient child lashing out impatiently or having less than normal tolerance for his tag-along little brother.
A child who is needing or wanting attention - whether they know it or not - may start to act up with other siblings.
Stress in the home or in your child’s life can also have an impact on her patience levels and ability to get along with others.
Reducing the potential for conflict between siblings seems undoable, but there are steps you can take to ensure your children will get along better:
Treat each child fairly. Avoid showing favoritism. It’s important to honor our children for who they are as individuals, and treat them accordingly. There is a difference between treating them equally and treating them fairly.
Avoid comparing your children to each other. Statements like “Why can’t you get good grades in math like your sister?” or “Your brother always does what he’s told the first time.” are no-no’s.
Create moments of cooperation and limit moments of competition. Let’s not set our children up in a battle to see who can pick up the most toys. Instead, set a timer and see if they can clean the room in under five minutes - together.
Teach and model mutual respect. This can be done when you are having an argument with your partner, when you are interacting with someone who has different beliefs than you do, or when you are talking about others.
Acknowledge your children’s good behavior. Children become frustrated when parents seem to constantly be pointing out bad behavior. They need to hear from you when they are doing a good job, when you feel proud, and when you can simply say “I love you”.
Parenthood is such a challenging journey. There are so many difficult and fine-line choices, like when to step in and intervene between fighting children and when to silently observe. If approached correctly, our children can learn so much from the conflicts they experience with their siblings. And, perhaps, we parents will breathe a little easier through them.