Dealing with Sibling Rivalry?

One thing I am gearing up for with everyone being home all day after a busy first week of school is a little extra sibling rivalry. My children are already tired after jumping into a ridged routine and they may be a little extra snippy when it comes to “their stuff”.

Sibling rivalry is a natural part of life. It is in our nature to want to compete and fighting is one way for a child to express what they want. Here are some helpful points to keep in mind as you use each moment as a learning experience for your children.

** Analyze the type of fighting that is happening - often as parents, we want to rush right in and break up the argument or keep the peace. However, I would encourage you to walk slowly (only if you can tell that no one is in danger of getting hurt). Giving your children a chance to solve bickering on their own is an important part of conflict resolution.

** If a child is mad at their brother and hit him, we often jump in to correct the behavior. We want to correct the behavior but what happens is we also say things like “there’s no reason to hit," or "you guys should not be mad at each other.” When we say, “you love your brother, no need to get so angry” or a variety of similar comments, we drive their feelings underground and resentment can build quietly over the years. Instead, take time to recognize the anger and validate your child's feelings. "You were very angry. Its ok to be angry when someone takes something that isn't theirs." Then, we can use that opportunity to teach the appropriate behavior and help children to see the best in others. "It is ok to be angry, but it is not ok to hit." However, this only happens once they feel recognized and understood. That will create the space for them to forgive and to understand how to truly love his brother.

**If you can tell that the argument is heating up and someone is in danger of getting hurt, move in quickly. In a calm manner, acknowledge their anger (“you two sound very mad at each other”) and reflect each child’s point of view (“you wanted to watch that show, but he wants to watch this one,” “she took your shirt without asking and that makes you very upset,” “you were playing together and one person was bumped which made them push back”).

** Invite your children to give suggestions on how to find a compromise. “What can we do to solve the issue that we are dealing with here?” If no one is willing to move from their point of view or if they are too angry to deal with the issue, it is ok to separate your children and suggest having a “cool down” time. You can even say, “you can go back when your brother/sister says it is ok. You wait until they are ready.”

Growing up, when my younger sister and I had an argument, my mom would make us both wear one oversized T-shirt and would braid our hair together in a pigtail. Even if we entered the situation extremely angry, being in such close proximity together and in such a goofy state would make us start laughing and be able to move on from the past disagreements. With my own kids, once they arrive at a solution to their problem, I ask them to hug for 20 seconds. Sometimes they stand there with just their shoulders touching and they are stare off in other directions, waiting for the time to finish. So I encourage it further, “ok, lets see who can make the other person laugh first?” They wrap their arms around each other to tickle and have a renewed friendship.

This may not be the way that works for your children to end their disagreement, but find a way that makes each child feel heard and take the time to understand how they are feeling.

Remember, sibling rivalry is normal! But you can help your children have a strong bond by appreciating each person and the special part they bring to the family. Happy problem solving!

Some other helpful resources: ** Siblings Without Rivalry - Faber and Mazlish **…/i…/sibling-rivalry/art-20046568

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