Siblings Fighting

The good news about having more than one child is that they can entertain each other. The not so good news is that they have a tendency to fight among themselves.

If you are a parent who finds yourself in the middle of too many of your children’s arguments, the following guidelines may help you to take a step back and remove yourself from some of their tension. By taking a neutral role, they are forced to learn to handle differences and get along together better and, more importantly, you are not seen as taking sides.

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Try to distinguish between the merely annoying conflicts and the really alarming conflicts. Most children bicker often, and parents can usually tell when it’s serious or not. When you hear out of control screaming voices or something getting broken, it may be time to step in. Otherwise, try to keep your mouth shut and let your children learn to deal with their own problems. Of course, when your children are very young, you should oversee their games, however, as they get older it is advantageous to maintain a certain distance and perspective.

Keep your ears open. Even when you decide not to get involved, listen from a distance to find out how they handle the confrontation. If one child threatens the other, you may need to step in, however, if they decide to forget it or continue discussing it to find common ground, try to keep out of it – even if you do not fully agree with the outcome. Children learn from failure as much as they do from consequences and it’s important to let them make their own mistakes from time to time.

If the children really do have problems solving a disagreement, you may wish to step in as a mediator. This is not to say who is right or wrong, or to judge, but to stay neutral and try to help them find their own middle ground. As a mediator, you will need to allow all parties to express their concerns and their point of view and you will need to ask questions and make comments to help them consider all options and show them the importance of respecting the views of others. Sometimes this process can be time consuming, depending on the age of the children. In most cases, however, it will be pretty fast as children get bored easily and will get tired of negotiating and will look for something more fun to do. This type of communication can introduce them to the concept of conflict resolution – a skill that is essential for adults.

Divert young children’s attention. Preschool children are not yet old enough to discuss anything with each other or with you and, if these children are tired or unwell, they may be particularly difficult to handle. Most often, the problem can be solved instantly by simply redirecting them to another activity.

Teach older children to respect others’ views. Help them to learn to be good listeners and be sure that they understand what the other person wants to say before expressing their own opinions. Emphasise the value of a compromise or a win-win approach so that everyone comes out of the dispute with a sense of respect or satisfaction. Try to lead by example and use this type of conflict resolution in your own life too.

Conflict is an important part of communication as it gives us the opportunity to explore other viewpoints and reconsider our own. As your children get older and more mature, you must give them greater responsibility to handle differences with others, while you as a parent continue to maintain a watchful eye on events.

How do you deal with sibling conflict in your home? What tips can you give other parents going through similar things?