Fights between siblings occur in almost every family and they can sometimes become quite intense. Fortunately, parents should not have to worry too much about this as disagreements and arguments are part and parcel of a child’s natural development. Children living under one roof must endure one another’s company despite their differences in interests or temperaments. The basis of conflicts is usually jealousy and competition.

Sibling rivalry – why it happens and what it signifies

While many children are lucky enough to develop a close bond with their siblings and become best friends with one another, it is not unusual for them to squabble and argue either. It is also common for siblings to swing between feelings of affection and dislike for each other. Sibling rivalry often begins even before a second child is born and continues as the children grow up together and compete for everything. As they reach different stages of development their needs may significantly affect how they relate with one another as they evolve and grow.

Siblings generally spend more time with one another than with their parents. The sibling bond is often complicated and is influenced by factors such as parental treatment, birth order, personality, and people and experiences outside the family. Sibling rivalry can be particularly intense when children are awfully close in age; are of the same gender; where one child is intellectually gifted; or a child in the family requires more attention due to a disability or illness.

How to respond to fights – 7 proven strategies

Fights between siblings often prove difficult and stressful for parents. You will start to feel guilty as you wonder if you did anything wrong that could have contributed to the anger and frustration that your children are obviously feeling. When siblings fight, parents question their parenting skills, thinking that they might have failed in teaching their children to communicate amicably without having to start a fight. It is important that you fully understand that disagreements are a natural part of everybody’s life and children also need to learn how to deal with them. Of course, this does not mean that we should not intervene.

Sibling rivalry is also at its worst when there are inadequate or inconsistently applied rules that govern the interaction between kids, for example — when the “lawbreakers” do not get caught, or, when apprehended, are set free without any consequences. In these situations, parents lack sufficient disciplinary control to enforce their judgments and the children who find that they must appeal to them for some sort of intervention are often left to fight it out among themselves.

One of the most important responsibilities of parents is to establish a fair system of justice and a balance of power at home. There should be reasonable rules that are enforced fairly for each member of the family. To avoid fights it’s good to keep in mind these 7 strategies and rules:

1) No child should ever be mocked.

2) Each child’s room is his/her private area. While locking their doors should not be encouraged or allowed, parents must take note to refrain from barging in without first knocking. In cases where a bedroom is occupied by more than one child, parents should assign each of them their own area in the room.

3) Refrain from making comparisons between your children in front of them.

4) Punishments must be meted out privately between the parent(s) and the child. Do not punish or scold one child in front of another and this may lead to them being teased by the other child/children.

5) Children are not required to play with each other if one prefers to be alone or with other friends.

6) Older children should be left on their own to resolve any arguments themselves. However, for fights between children below the age of 7, parents may have to step in to mediate. When doing so, it is crucial to remember that you must show impartiality and not take sides.

7) Separate kids until they are calm. Sometimes it is best just to give them space for a little while and not immediately rehash the conflict. Otherwise, the fight can escalate again. If you want to make this a learning experience, wait until the emotions have died down.

It takes a village to raise a child – we also need love, patience, persistence and uniformity. When it comes to teaching children social skills, parents should set an example for them through their relationships with other people. Your way of resolving conflicts will become the model for your children as they develop and grow. Therefore, it is important to be mindful of what you say, how you say it and what you do.

For more information on resources & training on resolving conflicts between children, please contact us.

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