The Cause of Sibling Conflict
Michael Grose, the author of seven books for parents and a popular presenter who speaks to audiences in Australia, says that he has finally figured out the cause of sibling fighting: having multiple children.
“It is born from rivalry or competitiveness between siblings and shows itself through mindless arguments, noisy squabbles, physical means, verbal put-downs and even long silences,” Grose says, and it should be noted that sibling infighting is present in all families at one point or another.
Resolving Sibling Conflict
We know that siblings are going to have conflicts at some point or another, and it can be difficult for parents to handle or deal with. Do you step in and try to help help them? Do you ignore it? Should you make them go outside if they’re going to be rowdy?
There are some cases where you should let kids “argue it out” so long as the argument doesn’t become physical or just descend into a screaming match. However, there are times that you can and should step in to help guide your children through the conflict in order to reach a resolution. Here are some steps you can take to help your children:
- Let them calm down. If the children are angry or sad and can’t even form sentences because they’re crying, there is no point in trying to settle the argument. Try giving each ten minutes to go and cool off before having them come back to the discussion.
- Place the focus on the problem, not on the other sibling. Many children will want to see their sibling punished for stealing a toy or changing the channel, but that isn’t going to solve the problem. The problem is not the offending sibling; rather, the problem is that a toy was taken without permission.
- Listen to what happened. Let both children describe their side of the story so that both can gain perspective of the other. Validate their emotions. “I understand you’re angry about your toy being taken.”
- Work together toward a solution. Simply punishing one child is not going to make them change behavior, especially if they don’t understand why what they did was wrong. Again, try to keep the focus on the problem and not on the other sibling. “Perhaps your brother can ask before taking your toy next time.”
- Repair the relationship. If necessary, have the children apologize or have a hug to ensure that they are not angry about the problem anymore. If an agreeable solution has been reached, the children should be able to get along once again. However, sometimes they might need a few hours to work through their emotions before they want to interact with their sibling again, and that’s okay too.
Yes, I know it’s easier to just put the kids in timeout or ground them, but this isn’t going to teach them how to resolve conflict in the long run. You’re not doing your children any favors by punishing both children or just one of them, especially if you don’t get to the root of the issue.
As a final note, Grose writes, “Oh, and don’t forget to model good conflict resolution yourself. Your kids are watching and learning from you!”