Overcoming Sibling Conflict
Overcoming Sibling Conflict
You have probably heard the term ‘sibling rivalry.’ Perhaps you considered it to be part of normal growth and development. However, rivalry or completion between brothers and sisters can become a problem when children are disrespectful or disrupting the harmony in the home. Below are some of the signs of sibling conflict and some suggestions that can promote good morals, empathy, and peace.
7 Triggers to Sibling Conflict
- Limited Parental Attention: “Who cares about me? Who is there for me? Does what I think matter?”
- Negative Comparisons: Parents: “Why can’t you be more like your brother. See how your sister studies and gets good grades.” Siblings: “I am older, bigger, faster? You have to do what I say.”
- Objects of Ongoing Friction: “She took my _______.” Remember, you as the parent, have the power to give or take away the use of electronics, toys, cloths, games or other items that are contributing to negative interaction.
- Disrespect of Privacy and Physical Space: “He’s in my room. She hit me first. He is grabbing my ______. She called me a bad name.”
- Oppression and Injustice: “He started it. It wasn’t me. You always take his/her side. That’s not fair.” Older children can be cruel and younger children can annoy their older siblings. Children care about what is fair, however maturity level, body size, unique circumstances and individual needs are not always equal.
- Taking Sides or Correcting In Anger “Why can’t you just get along? Can’t you see that I am busy and tired? Don’t you hear your little sister yelling? Stop that!”
- Building Resentment “No one listens to me. It is hard to be the middle child. No one cares about my side of the story. I can forgive but I do not trust my brother/sister.”
7 Steps to Resolve Sibling Conflict
- Increase Adult Supervision: to reduce error about the child’s valuable role in the family; to change negative patterns. Be available to intervene in a fight using a calm tone without playing favorites or addressing every conflict. Monitor sources of violent media, negative peer influence and use them as a ‘teachable moment’.
- Know Your Child’s Strengths, Triggers and Needs. Decisions cannot always be “fair” because they are based on the individual needs of each child. Be grateful when it is only one child at a time who requires extra guidance and parental wisdom.
- Discourage Tattling and Praise Problem Solving: Help siblings recognize the warning signs when their brother or sister is upset so they can walk away.
- Help Children Safeguard Personal Belongings or Create a ‘Share Schedule’ for common items using an egg timer or calendar. Some parents like to assign odd or even days for sharing or chores. For example: one child can play video games on the odd days while it is also his day to set and clear the table.
- Establish House Rules
- We use respectful touch
- In this house we use respectful words
- We respect when someone says “STOP”
- Administer Correction and Consequences In Private: Use ‘time outs’ to help tempers cool and prevent arguments from becoming too aggressive. When one child returns to calm, validate feelings and acknowledge their frustration as you remind them of the House Rules. Explain that disrespect of their sibling means lost time with friends and increased positive time with their sibling doing a favorite activity.
- Promote Restitution: Take time to help your child work through any grudge they may hold toward a family member. Take necessary steps toward apologies, forgiveness and help them restore any loss that was the result of their wrong behavior.
Beth Holloway, MA LPC with permission to post on Rosario Counseling & Associates
Beth Holloway, MA, LPC is a Licensed Professional Counselor at Rosario Counseling & Associates and has more than 12 years’ experience in the mental health field. She specializes in counseling individuals and couples who have experienced all types of losses including abuse, domestic strife, and trauma. She enjoys leading group therapy classes in the areas of Divorce Recovery, Spiritual Enrichment, Couples and Parent/Child Relationships, Grief Processing and Depression. Beth has had the privilege of traveling all over the United States and to more than 10 foreign countries.
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