While many kids become the best of friends with their siblings, it's very common for brothers and sisters to fight.
A household that's full of conflict is stressful for everyone. In this article we'll try to offer simple steps for intervention during a fight and others to try to prevent fights.
Why do my kids fight?
There are lots of factors that can make your kids fight, for example, age, sex, position in the family, jealousy, competition, evolving needs, individual temperaments, special needs that may require more parental time. The most important factor, however, is parental attitude. If your kids see you routinely shout, slam doors, and loudly argue when you have problems, they're likely to pick up those bad habits themselves.
When getting involved during a fight, here are some Do's and Don’t's to consider:
- Don't get involved unless there's a danger of physical harm.
- Don't ignore an unaccepted behavior; it's appropriate to "coach" kids through what they're feeling by using appropriate words. This is different from intervening or stepping in and separating the kids.
- Don't try hard to figure out which child is to blame. Taking sides is a common mistake in handling these situations.
- Don't give in to the old "it's not fair" strategy. When one kid has a birthday or is ill, he is the one who merits the special attention and presents.
- Try to resolve problems with your kids, not for them.
- Separate kids until they're calm. Sometimes it's best just to give them space.
- Next, try to set up a "win-win" situation so that each child gains something. When they both want the same toy, perhaps there's a game they could play together instead.
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.
Can I prevent the fight from happening?
Simple things you can do every day to prevent fighting include:
- Set ground rules for acceptable behavior. Tell the kids that there's no cursing, no name-calling, no yelling, no door slamming. This teaches kids that they're responsible for their own actions, regardless of the situation or how provoked they felt.
- Have fun together as a family. Since parental attention is something many kids fight over, fun family activities can help reduce conflict.
- Be proactive in giving your kids one-on-one attention directed to their interests and needs. For example, if one likes to go outdoors, take a walk or go to the park. If another child likes to sit and read, make time for that too.
- Make sure kids have their own space and time to do their own thing without having to share 50-50.
- Provide suggestions on how they can handle the situation when it occurs such asignoring the teasing, kidding back in a way that is humorous, simply agreeing (in a kidding way) that whatever the teaser is saying is true, telling the teaser that enough is enough.
- If your children frequently argue over the same things (such as pushing the button in the elevator, choosing the television show), develop a system for taking turns for such things. If they keep fighting about it, take it away altogether.
- If fights between your school-age children are frequent, Introduce a family plan that provides negative and positive consequences
- Try arranging separate play dates or activities for each kid occasionally. And when one child is on a play date, you can spend one-on-one time with another.
When do I seek professional help?
Seek help for sibling conflict if it:
- is so severe that it's leading to marital problems
- creates a real physical danger to any family member
- is damaging to the self-esteem of any family member
- may be related to another psychiatric disorder
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