04 June 2017
Summer is most definitely here!!! With the older children out of school you may be noticing a bit of sibling rivalry rearing its ugly head in your home! You may experience some “challenges” as your kiddos will be spending much more time together. You may have to give many more “breaks” to them to keep them from any serious battles.
While many kids are lucky enough to become the best of friends with their siblings, it’s common for brothers and sisters to fight. (It’s also common for them to swing back and forth between adoring and detesting one other!).
Here are some reasons that your kiddos might be a bit spicy lately!
Evolving needs. It’s natural for kids’ changing needs, anxieties, and identities to affect how they relate to one another. For example, toddlers are naturally protective of their toys and belongings and are learning to assert their will, which they’ll do at every turn. So if a baby brother or sister picks up the toddler’s toy, the older child may react aggressively. School-age kids often have a strong concept of fairness and equality, so they might not understand why siblings of other ages are treated differently or feel like one child gets preferential treatment. Teenagers, on the other hand, are developing a sense of individuality and independence and might resent helping with household responsibilities, taking care of younger siblings, or even having to spend time together. All of these differences can influence the way kids fight with one another.
Individual temperaments. Your kids’ individual temperaments – including mood, disposition, and adaptability – and their unique personalities play a large role in how well they get along. For example, if one child is laid back and another is easily rattled, they may often get into it. Similarly, a child who is especially clingy and drawn to parents for comfort and love might be resented by siblings who see this and want the same amount of attention.
Special needs/sick kids. Sometimes, a child’s special needs due to illness or learning/emotional issues may require more parental time. Other kids may pick up on this disparity and act out to get attention or out of fear of what’s happening to the other child.
Role models. The way that parents resolve problems and disagreements set a strong example for kids. So if you and your spouse work through conflicts in a way that’s respectful, productive, and not aggressive, you increase the chances that your children will adopt those tactics when they run into problems with one another. If your kids see you routinely shout, slam doors, and loudly argue when you have problems, they’re likely to pick up those bad habits themselves.
Here are some ideas to help you become an excellent mediator:
Whenever possible, don’t get involved. Step in only if there’s a danger of physical harm. If you always intervene, you risk creating other problems. The kids may start expecting your help and wait for you to come to the rescue rather than learning to work out the problems on their own. There’s also the risk that you – inadvertently – make it appear to one child that another is always being “protected,” which could foster even more resentment. By the same token, rescued kids may feel that they can get away with more because they’re always being “saved” by a parent.
If you’re concerned by the language used or name-calling, it’s appropriate to “coach” kids through what they’re feeling by using appropriate words. This is different from intervening or stepping in and separating the kids.
Even then, encourage them to resolve the crisis themselves. If you do step in, try to resolve problems with your kids, not for them.
When getting involved, here are some steps to consider:
Separate kids until they’re calm. Sometimes it’s best just to give them space for a little while and not immediately rehash the conflict. Otherwise, the fight can escalate again. If you want to make this a learning experience, wait until the emotions have died down.
Don’t put too much focus on figuring out which child is to blame. It takes two to fight – anyone who is involved is partly responsible.
Next, try to set up a “win-win” situation so that each child gains something. When they both want the same toy, perhaps there’s a game they could play together instead.
Remember, as kids cope with disputes, they also learn important skills that will serve them for life – like how to value another person’s perspective, how to compromise and negotiate, and how to control aggressive impulses. Try not to save the day too much or else they might not learn these critical social interaction skills!