A: Sibling rivalry is one of the most frustrating and patience-testing situations parents have to deal with. It can turn a perfectly wonderful day into a nightmare. It is so frustrating because as parents we cannot make our kids get along. They pull us into the argument and no matter what we do to solve the problem we are never right. We cannot solve the problem because we do not understand the issue. Arguments are generally not about what is being fought about. They usually begin days, weeks, months before with a gesture or comment exchanged. The current argument is an extension of many different situations. Therefore, the reason our children say we don’t understand is because we don’t.
So, what can a parent do? Here are some suggestions that work.
- Never try to referee a situation. Have your kids do that. It is really easy to do. Tell them that the issue they are fighting about is not your issue and they need to settle it away from you.
- Have them disagree away from you. If you can’t hear them argue it is less likely to make you angry. It also decreases the chance that you will be pulled into the argument.
- Tell your children that if they can’t get along with one another then you don’t trust them to hang out with other kids. Let them know that they need to show you how they treat people (their sibling) so that you can trust them with others.
- Tell your kids your expectations in the house. All kids fight and argue, but if allowed, they will do it more. One clear expectation I have for my kids is this: No one hurts my children, including my own children. Basically, just because you are a sibling it does not give you the right to be mean or hurt one another.
- Model, talk and have consequences. Model positive, respectful behavior; talk about what your expectations are and have consequences for bad behavior (not hanging out with friends, restrictions on driving or cell phone use).
Sibling rivalry will never go away, but with clear expectations and consequences you can create the family environment that you like.