If life were more like social media, kids would always get along and parents would never have to listen to their kids bickering. Unfortunately, that is not the way the world works. While some siblings become the best of friends, some seem like arch-enemies. It's also very common for them to swing back and forth between the two extremes.
As siblings grow, they tend to compete for everything. It might be as simple as a toy to something more complex, like attention. With each different stage of development, their needs continue evolving, and it can significantly affect how they relate to one another.
A household full of quarrels is stressful for everyone. For parents, though, it is often hard to get children to stop. Even when they might manage to, kids can get at it again in the blink of an eye. Fortunately, there are steps parents can take in an effort to keep the peace.
What Is With All The Fighting?
On average, young siblings argue and/or fight 3.5 times an hour. That adds up to about ten minutes every hour. In observational studies, siblings make 700 percent more negative and controlling statements to each other than they do to friends, according to ABC News. There is a multitude of reasons that cause siblings to fight. Most siblings experience some degree of angst, jealousy, or competition which can cause arguments. But there are other factors that might influence how often it happens, and how severe it gets.
- Individual temperaments. According to Psych Central, all children are different and have different temperaments. For example, if one child is easygoing, and one has a more difficult temperament. Children with a difficult temperament may cry or act fussy more often, and be more difficult to console. In general, they need a lot more than the easy-going child. This could in turn affect the easy-going child. It could end up in a constant battle back and forth.
- Special needs. If one child has special needs or a chronic illness, they require more time and attention as well. This can also cause rivalry.
- When parents fight. Much research points to a strong connection between children seeing their parents argue and acting out because of it, according to UC Berkeley. Reacting outwardly with anger, becoming aggressive, and developing behavior problems at home and at school is not uncommon for children that witness this often.
- Particular parenting style. Controlling and disinterested parents alike have been shown to stimulate more sibling rivalry than parents who are mediators and coach their children to settle their differences.
- Culture. If a certain cultural practice seems to disregard one gender, members of that gender may feel excluded and express resentment toward siblings who seem to be favored.
When The Fighting Starts
Parents can let their children argue it out if they choose to, however, if it becomes dangerous either verbally or physically, it is best to intervene. Sometimes letting kids figure it out on their own works well. It teaches them problem-solving, as well as self-control. Often times when parents continuously break it up, no solution is ever reached and the rivalry just sits and festers.
When parents rescue a child by intervening, it may seem like favoritism for that child and cause more anger to manifest. Children can also become used to being saved by a parent and take it into other parts of their lives; thinking they can get away with anything. Stepping in to calm the children and coach them through their feelings might be a better option. They still get to resolve the issue then, too.
How To Get Involved The Right Way
- Separate the children, not in a form of punishment, just so they can calm down. Once the emotions have stopped raging and the tension leaves the air, it will be easier to handle.
- Next, talk to the children alone, once they are calm. No one child is at fault. They both (or all) are yelling, so it's not one child's fault over another. Trying not to take sides helps.
- Finally, trying to help the children come to a solution. Resolving the problem where it seems like they both, "win" is great, but not always possible.
Letting kids figure things out by themselves can be hard. However, as kids figure out their own disputes, they also learn important skills that they will continue to use throughout their lives. Valuing another person's point of view, compromising, and controlling their own emotions and impulses, for example.
When It's Time For Professional Help
Sometimes the conflict between siblings gets too intense. It ends up affecting family dynamics and daily functioning. It can even hinder the emotional and psychological health of the children. Seeking professional help is wise if, or when:
- It is so severe that it leads to marital problems.
- It creates a real danger of physical harm to any family member.
- It is damaging to the self-esteem or psychological well-being of any family member.
- It may be related to other significant concerns, such as depression.
If parents have questions or concerns about their children fighting, they can talk with the family doctor, who can help them determine whether their family might benefit from professional help.