Keeping things sweet between siblings

Bickering between siblings can drive parents up the wall! So what can you do to help keep your kids’ squabbles in check?

According to the Raising Children Network, siblings under the age of five can fight as often as once every 10 minutes. So if you feel like putting up a white flag in your living room, you’re not alone.

What not to do

The good news is that sibling disagreement can sometimes be beneficial. 

“These battles provide kids with a healthy way of working out how best to behave in relationships in a relatively safe learning environment,” says clinical psychologist and media commentator Sally-Anne McCormack. “They teach children really good lessons about conflict resolution, negotiation and self-control.” 

For this reason, she advises that sometimes we need to let them try and resolve their differences themselves. 

As frustrating as it is, if we jump in at the first sign of a quarrel there’s also a danger of sending the wrong message.

“One child will see that you’re siding with another and you’re potentially teaching the aggressor that they have to be more underhand in future, and the more passive child that they’re not capable of looking after themselves.” 

An extra helping hand

While we should try to stay on the sidelines when arguments break out, there may be times when you need to intervene and teach your children some ways to better deal with their arguments.  

“You can talk about ways to behave in certain scenarios: ‘If your big brother says or does this and you feel angry, hurt, jealous, this is what you can do.’ This helps to validate your children’s feelings, too.

“Sitting down together regularly also provides the opportunity to review what went well over the past week or so: ‘Did you try not hitting back when this happened, or telling mum/dad – and how did that go?’” says McCormack.

young boys fighting

Promoting peace

Good news? Whether your kids are still in nappies or they’re navigating the first few years of school, there’s plenty you can do to help promote a more harmonious household. 
Here are McCormick’s top tips for a harmonious household:
  • Don’t play favourites. 
  • Be careful with comparisons; even small things such as ‘Johnny was always a better sleeper’ can cause jealousy and conflict. 
  • Treat them fairly.
  • Spend time with each child – both one-on-one time and time together. 
  • Model good behaviour. This means controlling your own anger even when your kids are failing to control theirs.
Above all, it’s important to remember that sibling squabbles are normal and are also an important part of developing your children’s social skills.

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