©Judy Helm Wright aka “Auntie Artichoke”

The definition of sibling rivalry is: Competition between siblings especially for the attention, affection, and approval of their parents.

playing board games and other activities as a family can teach sportsmanship. Sibling rivalry can be a healthy way to learn life skills.
Playing board games and other activities as a family can teach sportsmanship. Sibling rivalry can be a healthy way to learn life skills.

Conflict is normal and healthy

While some fighting is normal and healthy, there can be times when sibling rivalry is dangerous. If the fighting leads to severe physical violence, psychological distress, or marital problems between you and your spouse, then it is time to seek professional help. Your pediatrician or family doctor will be able to point you in the right direction.

World Isn’t Always Fair

Teach your children that the world isn’t always fair.  There are times when one child’s needs must take precedent in the family.  Help them to understand that next time; his needs will come first instead.

If it is an object or toy that causes the struggle set a schedule that they agree to and will abide by at a family meeting.  Help them understand that if the schedule does not work, the toy will be removed so neither can use it for a period of time. If you need assistance in setting up family meetings that work, see Kids, Chores & More on Amazon.

Teach Problem Solving Skills

While it may be common for brothers and sisters to fight, it’s certainly not pleasant for anyone in the house. Most families can only tolerate a certain amount of conflict before it becomes disruptive to daily life. Try to encourage them to resolve the crisis themselves. See them as capable individuals and you as a caring adult, not a referee or judge. If you do step in, try to resolve problems with your kids, not for them.

Help Them To Help Themselves

Unless there is a safety issue, try to allow them to work out their own issues.  Stepping in won’t teach your kids how to handle conflict and to negotiate a solution.  Here are some ideas that have worked  at various times in our family.

  • Use a Timer.       Separate kids until they’re calm. Sometimes it’s best just to give them alone time and not immediately rehash the conflict. Refuse to listen until the emotions have died down. Otherwise, the fight can escalate again.
  • Don’t Care Who Started it.          If you want to make this a learning experience, don’t put too much focus on figuring out which child is to blame. It takes two to fight — anyone who is involved is partly responsible.
  • Aim For Win-Win.           Have them determine what is fair so that each child gains something. When they both want the same toy, perhaps there’s a game they could play together instead.
  • Teach Them To Use Words Not Fists.        The more kids learn to name and claim their emotions, the more they will be able to discover what is really making them mad.
  • Model Empathy and Kindness.                  If they see you getting angry over small things, they will feel justified in anger.  If you demonstrate empathy to others, it will be natural for them to be kind and respectful.

Remember, as kids cope with disputes, they also learn important skills that will serve them for life — like how to value another person’s perspective, how to compromise and negotiate, and how to control aggressive impulses. The sibling relationship is the longest running relationship in your life. No one knows how to push your buttons or pull your hair out like a little brother.  And no one has your back like him.

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