Siblings fight. It’s a normal part of a multi-child household. The positive side is that it can help to develop self-esteem and emotional intelligence. However, it can also be overwhelming and take the fun out of family time.
Here are some reasons for why the fighting happens, and some easy ways to help prevent it.
Children may feel love insecure. As upsetting as this may be for parents to hear, this is a natural and normal part of childhood. Developmentally, children are unable to understand that a parent’s love is boundless. This leads to easily feeling insecure and jealous when their sibling is getting the attention they may be craving.
They need to feel connected with their parent / caregiver. Children need to know that they are seen, they belong and they matter. They crave individual attention – specifically attention that confirms and celebrates their unique traits and qualities (not being compared to siblings).
Dr. Laura Markham states:
If your child KNOWS that you could never love anyone else more than you love them, they won’t find themself jealous of their sibling very often. So your first focus needs to be strengthening and sweetening your relationship with each child.
Their basic needs must be met. If a child is hungry, tired or feeling a lack of parental attention, they are MUCH more likely to become agitated and melt down or pick a fight. Something as simple as waiting two minutes can seem impossible in this state.
Also, having children with mismatched temperaments can be a fight trigger. Let’s say you have one child that wakes up slowly and needs space, time, food and quiet before they are ready to take on the day; and another child that wakes up with an incredible amount of energy, ready to move, play and make lots of noise. Neither child’s individual needs will be met by their sibling. The energetic child will likely start pushing buttons to get their sleepy sibling to start interacting with them, and the slow waker will likely not take this very well and react negatively. Finding a morning routine that allows both children’s needs to be met can help prevent morning chaos.
Children often need coaching from their parents to learn how to get along. The moments of frustration or fighting between siblings are actually great teachable moments. Instead of reacting, take those times to coach your children through practicing empathy, understanding and compassion for others. Teach them how to express their needs and boundaries in respectful and clear ways.
Not all siblings will become best friends, but with guidance they can learn to be cooperative and respectful. It is up to the parents / caregivers to provide a supportive, safe and loving home. One that honors differences, individuality and cooperation. From this standard and support, siblings will grow to get along.
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