Before we start offering advice, we would like to clear the air. Kids fight. It is totally normal, and we need you to know and accept that. Whether you are scrolling photos and videos on social media or watching siblings play amicably on the playground, it is important to know that all siblings fight. When you’re in the thick of parenting, you might wonder, ‘Are my kids the only children that fight this much?’. We need you to know that they are not the only kids that fight.
Now that we have cleared the air let’s talk about how you can appropriately handle sibling rivalry.
Kids fight over literally…everything. She got a bigger slice of pizza. He got more screen time. I don’t want to watch this show again. Why is she looking at me? He is sitting too close to me. Does any of that sound familiar?
Yelling can silence rivaling siblings, but it is not the mature response. It is not appropriate to yell at your children for arguing with each other – responding to hostile behavior with more hostile behavior is not a real solution; it is a band-aid. Take a deep breath and inquire about the disagreement. In a calm voice, address the manner. Was someone in the wrong? Could someone be reacting in an unnecessary way? Offer a quick solution but thoughtful solution.
Sometimes the answer to a fight is simple…space. We all need alone time because it gives us time to reset and reevaluate our attitude or mood. Encourage fighting siblings to separate and do their own thing for a while. In most cases, a little time alone will squash a disagreement and give everyone an opportunity to evaluate their behavior in a calm environment. Offering time alone will help a child reflect on their actions and assess how they could process things differently.
When siblings are arguing, being a parent is a lot like being a referee. It is up to the parent to create a safe space for everyone. Stay calm and encourage your children to do the same. Once everyone has stopped arguing, allow each child to state their argument or qualm and then facilitate mediation. Ask each child how their sibling’s reactions and words made each other feel and try to find a resolution. For example, maybe a sibling dislikes when their sibling plays video games loudly. The solution could be using headphones when playing the video game or agreeing to a volume level that is less disruptive.
In many cases, parents expect their children to be problem solvers and identify a solution to a conflict; however, children will never know how to problem solve if their parents do not use real-life examples to teach them. It is quicker for parents to solve problems amongst siblings, but everyone will benefit if parents take the time to teach their children how to solve their own issues.
If parents pick a side, siblings will use that to their advantage. Parents should always state the facts and offer solutions that are more of a compromise versus stating who is in the wrong. While the wrongdoer will understand their actions, there is no need for a parent to point the finger because that will create animosity.
Have Ground Rules
Everyone has disagreements, and it is important for children to understand the normality within rivalry. Let your children know that violence is never okay and saying mean things is hurtful and not tolerated. When having a disagreement, you’re not allowed to bring up the past and previously resolved arguments. Also, each person is entitled to have their own space, and other siblings are not allowed to go into that safe space.
Spend Time With Each Child
As a parent, you must be proactive. If you want your child to trust you, then establishing a strong foundation is imperative. Make a point to interact and communicate with your child on a one-on-one basis as much as possible because that individual time will help your child understand that you’re on their side. By having time together, your child will be less likely to compare themselves to their siblings, feel emotionally inferior, and will have a better temperament when handling a disagreement.
Even though the fighting can seem petty, it is important to remember that the disagreements that siblings have with each other will help them function as adults later in life. With everything, we must learn as children the right and wrong way to handle ourselves – and sibling rivalry is how we all learn to treat others as we engage in friendships and relationships.