From Parenting 24/7: University of Illinois Extension


When Siblings Fight

Posted , updated Oct 27, 2005.

When Siblings Fight

Nearly every family experiences arguing and fights among siblings. Helping children learn to handle conflict gives them valuable skills for the future. With good parental modeling, basic ground rules, and help when needed, children can learn to deal with conflict in healthy ways.

Parents may grow tired of the need to referee. Below are some helpful tips to assist parents in coping with sibling spats:

  • Establish basic family rules for safety. Let the children know that hitting and name calling are not acceptable ways of dealing with conflict.
  • Encourage children to settle their own differences when possible. Help out when children are at a standstill or need guidance. Offer them a couple of choices or ideas in ways to compromise. (one sits in front going, the other coming back)
  • Set a good example Children learn from watching you. Be sure to model good communication skills. Show them that it is okay to get angry and even disagree at times while remaining cool and calm. When you lose your cool, which all good parents do from time to time, admit it.
  • Provide each child with individual attention – Research shows that giving children individual attention may help to reduce sibling rivalries. Let them know how special each one is to you.
  • Encourage empathy – Laurie Kramer, Department of Human and Community Development, University of Illinois, suggests a simple routine called “see it my way, see it your way.” Children are taught to stop, take turns listening to each other’s thoughts and feelings, and repeat the sibling’s words to see if they heard correctly. This helps them listen and consider another’s point of view.
  • Change the mood – Helping to change the mood may be far more beneficial for young children. Play soothing music, take time out to read a story, and assess the children’s needs.
  • Remember it’s normal to disagree and children are no exception. They have strong feelings and opinions about things. You are helping them learn to consider the wants and needs of others, to talk calmly through disagreements, and to share and reach a deal. With time and proper guidance learning to handle conflict will benefit children for a lifetime.

    Resources for parents: Siblings without Rivalry: How to Help Your Children Live Together So You Can Too, by A. Faber & E. Mazlish, 1997.

    The Baffled Parent’s Guide to Sibling Rivalry, by Marian Edelman, Borden, 2003

    A good children’s book to read together: Alexander & the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day, by Judith Viorst.

    Revised: Giesela Grumbach, Family Life Educator, Matteson Center, 2005 Editor: Patti Faughn, Family Life Educator, Springfield Center Fall 2005

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