It starts from a very early age.  The yells and screams from the next room, shortly followed by tears and ‘MUUUUUMMMMMM!’

You guessed it, siblings at war.

Why are our kids so determined to win the battle against the person who they supposedly love?  It can be over the smallest thing but neither will budge for the greater good.  Not only is this hard to listen to as a parent, but it often leads to physical and emotional wounds that we end up cleaning up after.

There is no easy answer when it comes to sibling rivalry.  It’s only natural when so much time is spent together that we can get annoyed with each other.  Can you remember when you were a child?  If you had a sibling, I’m sure you remember many bust ups!

The thing is, childhood leaves a lasting impression on who we are and how we see the world.  It’s usually at this time when we start to play the ‘roles’ that others assign us.  These roles usually begin at home.  No matter how hard I might try to be easy going and ‘cool’, my little brother will always see me as a bossy teacher (and I’ll always see him as my annoying brother – even at the age of 38!).

As hard as it may be, it’s really important for us as parents not to buy into that role.  We have such power over the attitudes of our kids towards others – the minute we declare that ‘this kid is sneaky’ or ‘that kid is fussy’,every person in the house will feel as though they have permission to treat that child in a particular way.

Our role as parents is to facilitate our child’s upbringing – not control it all.  So yes – it’s hard to see our children fighting – but it’s also important that we acknowledge that the issue they have is with each other… not with you.  I’m not saying that we can always let them ‘fight it out’ but we can pause before we launch in to take over.  Sometimes our children are busy negotiating the problem (even if the negotiation is happening at a very high volume!).

It’s natural for our children to also compete for our attention.  When we try and control a situation we can easily be seen as taking sides.  This is dangerous territory!

Here are 3 suggestions that I use to approach a sibling conflict.

  1. As previously mentioned, when you want to say ‘what’s going on?!?!’ hold off for a while.  Can you hear any attempts being made to fix the situation?  Chances are you will be required to help, but give them the benefit of the doubt first – before launching in.
  2. Be objective – not subjective. Reflect on the problem without adding your opinion or advice.  For example, instead of ‘You need to do this and you need to do that’, try ‘So I can hear you saying… ‘or ‘It sounds as if….’
  3. Don’t get drawn into sides of the argument. When they say, ‘it’s not far that he gets to do…’, don’t try and justify why he is doing that.  Instead address the unhappiness of THAT child.  For example, ‘It sounds as though YOU are unhappy about the way we are doing this.  Do you want to chat some more about that?’  My favourite ‘How to talk so kids listen’ cartoon has a boy complaining that his brother has a bigger piece of cake.  The mother replied, ‘Sounds like you’d like some more?’  The boy said yes, and the argument was over.  Genius!

There is no rhyme or reason when it comes to sibling relationships.  One day they’re best friends, the next day they’re worst enemies.  Just go with it… cherish the loving moments and when they are trying to rip each other’s hair out, know that ‘this too shall pass.’