Fights between siblings are so common they are practically a rite of passage of growing up. Even the most well-behaved children fight from time to time, and the fights are often over the silliest things. (Toys, candy, shoes, you name it.) While fighting can be a normal childhood behavior, it can also lead to serious stress, both for the kids and the parents. Too much sibling aggression can lead to depression and anger in children, too. The key to stopping it is figuring out what is causing the fights. Here are the biggest reasons siblings fight:
1. Spending Too Much Time Together
Anytime people spend as much time together as siblings do, arguments are bound to happen. After seeing the same person all day every day, siblings are sometimes simply ready for a break. Sometimes children need a chance to pursue separate activities without brothers or sisters tagging along.
2. They’ve Got Different Personalities
Personality conflicts are another common cause of sibling fighting. When one sibling prefers to play quiet games and the other prefers rambunctious games, someone is bound to not get his or her way. While parents can try to plan activities that all the children will enjoy, sometimes children have to take turns getting their way.
3. They Perceive Favoritism
Whether or not parents and caregivers actually have a favorite child, the children usually think they do. This perceived favoritism can cause children to lash out for attention. Children always know which child gets the most praise, even if parents are unaware of the difference.
4. They Have Difficulty Sharing
Unless parents buy duplicates of every toy that they bring in the house, at some point children are going to have to learn how to share. While this difficulty usually gets easier as the children grow up a bit, it can be a long process.
5. They Have Unequal Privileges
As children get older, they usually get more privileges. Younger children may feel this is unfair, and they may be right. Even within the same family, the age limits for various activities often changes with successive children.
6. They’re Jealous of Each Other
One is better at school while the other is better at sports. One excels in music while the other wins pageants. It is no secret which family members excel at which activities and which do not. Those who do not excel may feel jealous of the praised sibling, even if they excel in other ways.
7. They’re Unable to Handle Disagreements and Frustrations
Sometimes children, young children especially, do not know how to handle disagreements and frustrations. Instead of talking out problems and finding a good solution, siblings will often turn to fighting to get their way.
8. They Lack Boundaries or Personal Space
Whether they are constantly in the baby’s face or reading their older sister’s diary, sometimes children do not understand boundaries or personal space. Sometimes fighting is the only way that children know how to get their siblings to leave them alone.
9. There Are Accidents and Misunderstandings
Not all fighting is the result of a purposeful wrongdoing. A child may accidentally hurt a sibling or take a toy he didn’t know his sibling was still playing with. Rather than talk over the situation, children often turn to fighting to solve the problem.
10. They Need a Safe Person
Families are people that love each other no matter what, and children know this. If a child starts a fight with a friend, he may lose that friend. If he starts a fight with a brother or sister, he can work off some of his aggression without losing a friend. Siblings provide a safe way for children to get out some of their pent-up frustrations.
How to Stop Sibling Fighting
The best way to stop sibling fighting really depends on why the siblings are fighting in the first place, but there are a few general strategies parents can implement to help siblings keep the peace. First of all, parents should cultivate a loving, accepting environment for their children instead of a competitive one. Siblings should be encouraged to support each other and cheer for each other’s successes. Parents should avoid comparing siblings, even if the comparison seems harmless. (This applies to all areas: grades, personality, athletics, etc.) When siblings are busy looking for ways to build up their brothers and sisters, they are not busy finding ways to tear them down.
Secondly, parents and caregivers should teach children how to solve conflicts peacefully and then only intervene when necessary. Children need to be taught skills such as taking turns, asking permission before borrowing others’ possessions, and finding ways to play together peacefully. Once they have been taught how to do this, they should be left mostly alone to practice these skills. If you’re constantly stepping in to be the moderator, children never learn how to solve problems for themselves.
Lastly, parents should set a good example for their children of how to interact appropriately with other people. If parents are constantly yelling at the children, the children will learn to yell. If parents talk negatively about other people, the children will learn to do this as well. By modeling appropriate behavior, parents will teach their children the proper way to behave.
Raising siblings is never easy, but it doesn’t have to be impossible. With the right guidance and attitude, you can teach your children not only to stop fighting, but to lean on each other as they grow up.
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