Why Do Siblings Fight? Understanding Sibling Rivalry

Why Do Siblings Fight? Understanding Sibling Rivalry

One of the biggest challenges parents face is the inherent rivalry between siblings. This tension can start before you even bring your second child home from the hospital and can last well into adolescence. Your attitude and ability to manage such tensions can make all the difference and help your children bond, creating a solid foundation for a relationship that will carry through adulthood.

Why Siblings Fight

It’s normal for your first child to act out as a result of jealousy as you transition into a family of four. Suddenly the attention he or she once received on a nearly constant basis as the only child has suddenly been cut back, splitting the attention and care with the new addition. Consider allotting time for one-on-one activities with your older child, giving him or her your undivided attention and focus on his or her positive behaviors when interacting with your younger child to avoid sibling jealousy.

As your children become older and reach different stages of development, their evolving needs can significantly affect how they relate to one another. Jealousy can spark as they compete academically, emotionally and athletically. It’s important that you and your partner avoid comparing your children to each other. Instead, focus on their individual strengths and encourage them to explore their passions, even if they’re drastically different from those of their sibling.

If one of your children requires special attention due to a disability or learning disorder, your other child may pick up on this disparity and act out for more attention. It can be helpful to communicate the needs of your struggling child and ask for your other child’s help in addressing those needs, rewarding him or her for positive interactions.

How to Resolve Sibling Rivalry

Every instinct may be telling you to freak out and end the fighting, but it’s best to not get involved unless there’s risk of physical or emotional harm to one or more of your children. By coming to their aid during every fight, your kids may learn to depend on this type of help and will never learn to resolve their own issues. You also risk creating the perception that one child is always being protected, creating resentment with your other child and even more sibling rivalry. By letting your children sort out their own disagreements, you teach them to value another person's perspective, how to compromise and negotiate and how to control aggressive impulses.

If the situation does require you or your partner to intervene, consider separating your kids until they’re calm. Sometimes it’s best to give each child his or her own space, avoiding additional tension by forcing a conversation too soon.

You should also avoid placing blame because the truth is: it takes two to fight. If there’s clearly someone in the wrong, whether it be language used for name-calling or unacceptable behavior, communicate your expectations for appropriate behavior to all involved children, not just the one at fault.

How To Teach Kids To Get Along

Kids mimic the behavior they see, so before you jump to reprimand consistently bad behavior, take a look at how you and your partner resolve disagreements. Rethink the way you handle your own conflicts and lead by example for your children.

Encourage and acknowledge your children’s differences and praise them for their own successes. Just because your first child enjoyed little league soccer, your second could be more interested in piano lessons. If your kids view each other less as competitors, they can become each other’s biggest fans instead of harboring sibling jealousy.

You can create rules to manage repeated arguments, like who gets to sit at the head of the dinner table every night. By creating a routine and managing expectations, such as alternating the seating arrangements, you have a clear reference point to put an end to recurring fights.

Find more tips on how to prepare your first child for a new addition here.

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