Every parent of siblings knows how it is: not a single day goes by without a squabble. At lunchtime, who gets the bigger portion? In the afternoon, who can play with which toy? In the evening, who can stay up the longest and why? And when peace is finally restored, it doesn’t last long. It is not always possible to keep the squabblers apart from each other, especially because they need to play together and learn to treat each other fairly and respectfully. Read on to find out just why siblings have to squabble and how you can deal with it more calmly.
Siblings quarrel in order to find their place in the family and the world
There is a good reason for conflicts between siblings. They use quarrelling to claim their place in in the world. This is how they negotiate their role for their future development and get to know themselves at the same time. They learn their own strengths and limitations. They need these disputes to be fit for later life, because those who can solve conflicts and fend off attacks are more successful in protecting their own integrity.
There is often jealousy between siblings. They vie with one another for their parents’ love and attention when they both want to play with the same toy. It is a cry to be seen: ‘Mummy and Daddy dearest, please pay attention to me! Show me that my sibling isn’t contesting my place in the family!’
You as parents can be effective in helping your children with this. After all, how else will they learn to solve disputes? Children squabble because they still lack the appropriate strategies to deal with them.
3 tips for cutting down on squabbles between siblings
Emphasise their individual strengths
Help your children to become conscious of their own roles. Every child has their own special talents. Praise them for these. When you emphasise their strengths, children learn to differentiate themselves from their siblings: ‘You can paint well and your sister or brother is good at climbing!’ This way, each child feels noticed by their parents and sibling rivalry diminishes.
Never compare your children to each other
Every child wants to be noticed. But if children are compared with each other, this intensifies the competitiveness between them. So avoid remarks that make comparisons, such as ‘your brother behaved himself the whole time, why didn’t you?’ These kinds of comments only add more fuel to children’s arguments.
Nor is it advisable to play the family judge over conflicts and try to identify a culprit; in any case it is rarely possible to find out who started the fight in the first place. The smaller child is not necessarily the victim, and the one who is crying might well have started it. It is better for you to play the role of arbitrator and help the children to understand each other.
When parents need to intervene in quarrels between siblings
Tussles and arguments are part of everyday life for siblings. But if your children begin to seriously hurt each other or have dangerous objects in their hands, you will have to intervene. Separate the squabblers, preferably putting them in different rooms. Stay calm, avoid shouting loudly, and do not make threats. Otherwise all your children will learn from their quarrel is that the loudest person gets the last word.