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Dealing With Family Sibling Rivalry

Family sibling rivalry comes in many different forms and disagreements between brothers and sisters are frequently similar to those seen between adults.

In many instances parents do not need to intervene in family sibling rivalry and children can be left to sort things out for themselves. Sometimes however parents do need to step in.

Children over the age of three, despite the fact that they may well behavior badly because they have made a poor choice through a lack of knowledge and understanding, will nevertheless have a reasonable sense right and wrong. Children at this age will also frequently demonstrate a surprising sense of justice and fairness.

When it comes to family sibling rivalry the answer is to know just when to intervene and when to leave well alone. The solution also requires an understanding of how best to guide children through their disagreements so that they not only learn that their behavior was inappropriate but also understand why their actions were wrong.

An excellent point at which to start is by considering the issues of safety, property and individual choice.

If a child’s safety is at risk or there is a danger of damage to property then you need to intervene. Also, if the actions of one child are interfering with another child’s activity to the extent that his or her individual choice is being curtailed, then again you need to step in.

Just as in the wider world we set boundaries which should not be crossed, we also need to set boundaries for children with respect to their brothers and sisters which they must be taught to respect.

As long as children stay within these boundaries then, in most cases, you should stay out of disagreements and leave the children to sort things out for themselves. Children need to be given space in which to express their thoughts and feelings and to be given the opportunity to learn by taking their own decisions and experiencing the consequences of their actions.

It is not always easy for parents to know when to get involved in family sibling rivalry and it is possible to do more harm than good if you intervening too frequently or do not intervene often enough. In general however many more parents will leave the children to their own devices rather than get involved and one all to frequently heard phrase is “children will be children”. While this is fine up to a point, ‘roughhousing’ can rapidly escalate and children can cross boundaries very quickly.

Parents can help to reduce family sibling rivalry very considerably by focusing attention on the root causes of conflict from an early age and by remembering that much of the tension that occurs between children is similar to that which we are all familiar with between adults.

Finally, don’t forget that part of our role in parenting is to set an example for our children to follow. It our children see that mom and dad are able to deal with their disagreements in a just and fair manner, and without heated argument or fighting, then this will give the children an excellent starting point when it comes to solving their own disagreements.

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