Siblings can be the best of friends, and the worst of enemies, all within the same hour. Whether it stems from sibling rivalry, a stolen toy, or just a silly taunt, conflicts are bound to happen. If your children seem to be constantly bickering, take solace in the fact that this is common, and containable. From understanding the causes of conflicts to hints on coping with them, we’ve got great tips just waiting for you!
Causes of Sibling Conflicts
Sibling conflicts are a bit like the weather – we have no control over them, but we have to deal with the results anyway. As parents, it can sometimes seem that whenever we turn our backs the little ones are making each other cry. This may be the case, but remember that there are many reasons for it and you can’t be expected to control them all!
- Children become bored easily, and fighting gives them something to do.
- When they are hungry or tired, more things irritate children that lead them to conflict.
- Siblings engage in competition and may create conflict if they feel that they are losing, whether at a game, a race, or for your attention.
- Older siblings may not understand that younger siblings are not as mature as they are, and agitation and conflict can result.
- Every child is self-centred. This is a natural state, and it means that children can only see the world from their point of view. Until they develop the ability to see the world from another angle, this will result in many perceived slights and rule out any ability to understand why others may act the way they do.
- Children, like adults, will hold grudges. Often times new conflicts will result that seem insignificant, but are magnified by an old grudge.
Steps to Avoid Sibling Conflicts
Though a certain amount of sibling conflict will take place no matter what, there are steps parents can take to avoid frequent fighting. Eliminating sibling rivalry will help stop many sources of conflict.
- Give each of your children special time to have the undivided attention of their parents.
- Frequently show love and affection, with hugs and kisses, to each of your children.
- Never compare your children’s abilities, development or preferences.
- Avoid labelling your children, such as “the smart one” or “the patient one.”
- Encourage your children to develop their own hobbies that are distinct from their siblings’.
Mediating and Resolving Sibling Conflicts
Even despite our best efforts, sibling conflicts are bound to occur. When they do, there are several ways that parents can help mediate and resolve them in a timely manner.
- Discuss conflicts with your children when you are all calm. Refer to hypothetical conflicts that do not involve your children, and explain your feelings towards the resolution of conflictions through violence or force.
- Explain your rules clearly and so that every child understands. It is unfair to hold children accountable for breaking rules that they were never told about.
- Be a role model. Show your children how you expect them to resolve conflicts through your own behaviour.
- Encourage manners among your children.
- Remind children that “fair” is not always necessarily “equal.” For example, it is fair that older children are allowed to stay up later than their younger siblings.
- Teach your children the concept of compromise, and expect them to compromise without you acting as a judge.
- Help your child recognize their emotions. If they are able to verbalize that they are angry or sad, they will be able to discuss conflicts and think of compromises much more easily.
- If your children are quarrelling and it looks as though it will become violent, separate them immediately.
- When conflict does occur, do not inquire as to which child started it. Hold each child responsible for breaking your rules.
Remember, in a perfect world sibling conflicts would never rear their ugly heads. Here in the real world, sibling conflicts are common, and taking steps to avoid them and resolve them are much more important than simply ignoring them.