Some sibling rivalry is a natural occurrence, but when family tensions rise because siblings don’t get along, everyone may suffer with the contentiousness. By engaging in direct communication about the problems, you can address the issues proactively and encourage positive changes between your children that should help them get along better.
When your children have a conflict and need help restoring peace, monitor their interaction to see if they can resolve issues without help. If the age difference is enough that one child has a significant advantage over a younger child or if physical violence escalates, intervene to provide assistance to your children, suggests the University of Michigan Health System. Without taking sides, listen to the perspectives of both children and then encourage problem-solving with compromise and sharing, as appropriate.
Hold a family meeting with your children to discuss issues with fighting, recommends the University of Michigan Health System. In the meeting, give each child an opportunity to voice concerns and problems in the family. Insist that other family members afford respect to whoever is speaking to maintain order in the meeting. Move forward in the meeting to discuss new ground rules for interaction between family members. Possible rules include no physical or emotional hurting (hitting and name calling, for example), no “borrowing” items without prior permission, and no fighting over objects.
Teach Respectful Interaction
Discuss the importance of respectful interaction between your kids to instill positive habits, advises psychologist Laura Markham, with the Aha Parenting website. Make a policy about not calling each other names or speaking disrespectfully to others. Differences of opinion between siblings are normal and expected, but sinking to a level of hurting each other, either emotionally or physically, is off-limits. Tell your children that it’s important to develop skills of disagreeing with other people without becoming disrespectful. They have a chance to become adept at these skills, thanks to their siblings.
Talk about how children might avoid many confrontations between siblings with a little coaching about how to avoid negative circumstances, counsels social worker Kim Abraham, with the Empowering Parents website. For example, if one sibling is in a bad mood, other siblings might steer clear to avoid potential fights. Another way to prevent a confrontation is to avoid provoking siblings if a child knows that specific actions frequently cause problems. For example, one sibling playing loud music when another sibling is trying to sleep might be a common provocation that kids could avoid.