Happy siblings
Happy siblings

Managing sibling fighting

It is not uncommon for families with more than one child to have to deal with daily squabbles about belongings, being first and who gets what.

Need to know

It is not uncommon for families with more than one child to have to deal with daily squabbles about belongings, being first and who gets what. It’s exhausting to break up these daily fights, while trying your best to remain calm, especially when they escalate.

Although the constant arguing can wear the calmest of parents down, there are some positives that can come from your children clashing.

  1. Problem solving – this is a skill that children learn with experience, but your guidance can provide them with the right framework to negotiate and compromise.
  2. Learning empathy and perspective taking – in the heat of the moment siblings don’t often think about what each other is feeling and children don’t have impulse control. You can help raise their awareness by talking about the emotions and feelings each child is experiencing after the conflict
  3. Setting boundaries – bigger or older kids can easily impose their will or overpower their siblings. As a parent you can teach each child about setting and respecting boundaries.

Why it’s important

Physical and emotional safety comes first for everyone. There are times when the fighting can become problematic and have long term effects on your children’s wellbeing and their relationship. If you have a child that struggles with emotional dysregulation, impulsivity or other behavioural issues it’s best to address those issues first and protect other siblings.

If you feel like you need support please book in to see a professional.

Tips and strategies

There are things that you can do that will foster good relationships between your children and maintain a happy home:

Implement family rules – engage the whole family to agree on a set of rules that must be followed by everyone including parents. Kids who feel heard and are part of the decision making process are more invested in making it work.

Plan ahead – if you know what things might set your children off, be proactive about explaining what is coming and problem solve together – set them up for success. Pre-empting power struggles or jealousy will help you manage potential conflict and protect sibling relationships.

Create a cool down area and a safe space – when things get out of hand it’s important for children to know that they have a safe space where they feel secure and also a cool down area if they are feeling out of control. You can always come together, after everyone has calmed down, to give each child a chance to talk through what happened.

Don’t compare – comparing siblings is especially fraught with danger when one child has a developmental condition or is gifted. One child will always feel like they are never good enough and the other child might use this to taunt their sibling. Instead celebrate individual strengths and differences.

Know when to step in and when to let it play out – sometimes it is best to let children work through an issue to practise problem solving, but always intervene to prevent physical violence. 

Prioritise individual time – undivided quality time is one of the most important gifts you can give your children. Schedule in one-on-one time regularly, especially if you notice your children fighting more.

Allow for natural consequences – if children can’t agree on a movie to watch then explain that no one gets to watch TV. This often forces children to be open to a compromise, which is an important skill to practise in navigating conflict.

Praise the good moments – often we leave kids be when they are playing nicely, but this is a perfect time to make a big fuss about how well they are getting along. Reward the behaviour frequently and in different ways.

References

  1. https://raisingchildren.net.au/school-age/behaviour/friends-siblings/preventing-fights
  2. https://centerforparentingeducation.org/library-of-articles/sibling-rivalry/coping-sibling-rivalry/
  3. https://childdevelopmentinfo.com/ages-stages/school-age-children-development-parenting-tips/sibling_rivalry/#gs.es2a99
  4. https://www.betterhealth.vic.gov.au/health/healthyliving/sibling-rivalry
  5. https://www.additudemag.com/sibling-rivalry-adhd-positive-parenting-tips/
  6. https://www.additudemag.com/sibling-relationships-adhd-families/

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