Whenever there is more than one child in the house, fighting is inevitable. To parents, this is by far a nightmare when their kids just won’t get along. But, what’s the best way to handle sibling rivalry? If you’re tired of the constant bickering, teasing and competition among your children, read on.
Although there may not be a direct solution to this problem, there are other ways to promote and warm and loving relationships between siblings. While most parents see no end to the fighting, don’t let the helpless feeling overcome you. In most cases, as children grow and mature, the arguments die-down, but if they don’t, here’s what to do.
Forms of Sibling Rivalry
Some parents may not be aware that their children are feuding. Therefore, it’s essential to look for the causes and forms the sibling rivalry is presenting itself. Children are creative and can mask micro-aggressions in ways parents can’t readily identify. How kids can provoke each other:
- blaming, lying, or tattling
- poking or hitting
- stealing things
- challenging a belief
- simply looking at each other
- breaking or hiding something that belongs to the other one
- throwing something at the other one
These may seem familiar. Beyond these identifiers, look at the reasons for their behavior towards each other. It’s especially important to look at the causes of their feud.
Why Kids Fight & How to Help
According to the Kids Health Organization, a nonprofit children’s health system, there is a number of reasons kids fight. While most brothers and sisters experience some form of jealousy or competition, it can become concerning when they become argumentative or violent.
Bridging the gap between children can be hard, so it’s important to understand their evolving needs. Toddlers, infants, and teens all have different needs and expectations of their parents. Dr. Jennifer Shroff Pendley, an expert in Behavioral Health and reviewer for the Kids Health Organization, explains that children’s changing needs, anxieties, and identities can affect how they relate to one another.
While toddlers are naturally protective of their toys and belongings, their older siblings may not understand their younger siblings are learning the concept of “sharing.” Explaining this to them can help them understand their siblings’ behavior. Clarify that this is not preferential treatment, but their sibling reaching different developmental milestones they have already surpassed.
Similarly, this can be the case for your teens as well. As they grow into their personality, they might resent having so many household responsibilities. It’s important to let your teen voice these concerns and help them understand their role without making them feel they have to suppress their needs.
Another factor to consider is each child’s personality and temperament. While one child may desire more attention than the other, treating them equally to fit their needs is essential. This is especially important if there is a sick or ill child. Changing the way you approach your other children’s needs can transform the way they view their sibling with special needs. This can avoid any unnecessary resentfulness and attention-seeking behavior.
Lastly, bringing a new child into the mix can make things tense in a household especially for the former single child. Competing for everything from toys to attention. In order to alleviate their feelings of jealousy, giving each of your children personal time with you may help them feel noticed and understood. And, giving them a heads up to. Working in conversations about sharing space, time, and attention.
If the Fighting Has Begun
If the fighting has already begun, you may not know what to do. Ideally, you’d want them to resolve it among themselves, but it doesn’t always work out. Dr. Jennifer Shroff Pendley agrees that “If you always intervene, you risk creating other problems. The kids may start expecting your help and wait for you to come to the rescue rather than learning to work out the problems on their own.” You should really only get involved if there’s a danger of physical harm.
Similarly, she asserts that “If [parents are] concerned by the language used or name-calling, it’s appropriate to ‘coach’ kids through what they’re feeling by using appropriate words. This is different from intervening or stepping in and separating the kids.”
Resolving the problems “with” them rather than “for” them is better. However, if you do feel the need to step in, parents are encouraged to:
- Separate kids until they’re calm
- Don’t focus on who’s to blame
- Key-in on both their needs for a “win-win” situation
Most importantly, be their role model and encourage the behavior you’d like to see.