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School Age Sibling Rivalry

If you are the proud parent of more than one child, you probably experience the sounds of sibling rivalry and conflict on a regular basis.

(“Mom, he’s touching me!” “She’s wearing my sweater without asking!” “Get out of my room!”) Take comfort in the fact that this is typical behavior and yours are not the only loud disputing children in the neighborhood. Disagreements between siblings have many causes which can include jealousy, competition, differences in temperament and developmental stages, illness, and daily stress.

So, what’s a parent to do when sparks are flying?

  • Try monitoring the situation from a distance. Do not get involved unless there is danger to a person or property. If they come to you with the disagreement, encourage them to work it out between themselves peacefully. Parents are often surprised to see that their children are capable of working through disputes on their own.
  • Set firm rules, such as, “no physical contact”, “no name calling” and “no putting down or belittling one another.

If you must get involved…

  • Give everyone time to cool off. Allow enough time to pass for emotions to calm down.
  • Don’t take sides.
  • Don’t worry about who started it or who’s to blame. Just try to resolve the disagreement in a peaceful manner.
  • Insure that everyone has adequate time to speak.
  • Insure that the feelings of everyone involved are acknowledged and respected.
  • Try to come up with a win-win situation so that something is gained by each child.
  • When children work through disagreements with their siblings, they are developing important problem solving skills that will benefit them and those around them throughout their lives.

What can a parent do to prevent fighting?

  • Set house rules of acceptable behavior. Agree that everyone will be treated in a respectful manner; there will be no yelling , name calling or cursing, etc. Review these rules at family meetings.
  • Remind each child of your love for them daily. Give them one-on-one attention often.
  • Compliment each child’s individuality and encourage their personal interests.
  • Remind each child of their importance to the family.
  • Allow each child time and space to do their own thing without a sibling tagging along.
  • Plan fun family time. This builds strong sibling bonds through amusement and relaxation.
  • Be a role model. Don’t hide disagreements with your spouse. Allow your children to see you handle disputes in a respectful manner and they will adopt the same practices.
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