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Sibling Fighting: 5 Ways to Teach Your Kids to Get Along

sibling fighting

 

If Your Kids Are Always Fighting, Here’s What You Need to Know

You’ve had a good day and pick your kids up from school, they get in the backseat and before you know it, they’re off to the races fighting with their sibling.

All they did was sneeze or look at them the wrong way and now they’re spewing venom and you’re day is wrecked.
“Stop touching me!”
“What’s your problem?!”
“You stink!”
“No wonder you don’t have any friends.”
“You’re always borrowing my things without asking!”
“Get out of my room!”
“No, you can’t hang out with us. Get lost!”
“Mommmmmmmmmmmmm!!”

Exhausting, infuriating, and unsettling. Sometimes it’s a wonder we don’t choke someone. We may yell, scream or go to our bedroom to have an ugly cry while we fantasize about running away.  It hurts our momma heart’s listening to our kids being so mean to each other!

It’s also difficult not to get sucked into the fight and to avoid playing referee.

People may give you advice and tell you to let them work it out, but that’s easier said than done when you’re thinking, “Come on over to my house and you’ll be running down the street after a few minutes!”

So what is a parent to do?

Even though teenage sibling bickering and arguing is inevitable, it doesn’t mean parents are powerless. There are things you can do that can help!

Here’s what you need to KNOW, DON’T DO and DO to lessen fighting, have more peace in your home and influence your kids to have a better relationship (yes, there is hope!).

You Need to KNOW….

Sibling fighting is a normal part of growing up.

Siblings will fight with each other. It’s what siblings do. Nothing you do will totally prevent fighting from happening.
It doesn’t mean they will hate each other forever or not be good friends when they’re older.

So relax a little, take a deep breath and remind yourself that conflict is necessary in order for them to learn how to get along with others.

They’re immature.

Your tween or teen doesn’t have the emotional and mental maturity that’s needed to know how to navigate conflict just yet. It’s our job as parents to be patient and to teach them.

They have a lot of pent-up emotions.

It’s not easy being a tween and teen and it’s not always easy being in the same room with them. They can be moody, private and self-centered.

They’re experiencing a perfect storm and collision course of physical and emotional changes exacerbated by the stress of navigating social and academic pressures.

They need space (desperately).

Teenagers are like cats, if you smother them they will be sure to scratch, fight and freak out.
Research has shown that the most common cause of fighting between teenage siblings is due to issues of personal space and their strong need for privacy.
You will notice that common arguments erupt about taking their “stuff” without being asked, not respecting their physical space (“get out of my room!”), fear that someone is listening in on private conversations or snooping around (“stop listening to my conversation!”), copying what the other one does (“get out of my face!”), and following them around (no wonder they lose it!).

They are hyper-focused on issues of fairness..

They are very tuned in to how chores are distributed and who does what, if one of their siblings appears to get preferential treatment chances are you will hear, “Peter’s your favorite.” If you are stricter with one more than another, your kids will notice and protest.

They need attention.

You’ve heard the old adage, “Negative attention is better than no attention at all.”
Children crave attention from their parents. This is one of their most basic needs. If they aren’t receiving the positive attention they crave, they will go after it in negative ways.
They may be acting out unresolved hurt, anger or resentment.
If one sibling receives more positive attention, praise and accolades from a parent(s) other siblings can become jealous, feel less important or valued in the family and lash out in anger. If this continues it can lead to built up resentments, hurt, and long-term damage to sibling relationships.

 

One of the number one reasons siblings fight is for attention from the parent.

 

DON’T….

Don’t try to force them to get along.

As much as we want our kids to be kind, inclusive and helpful, if you’re forcing the issue it will backfire most of the time.
It’s human nature to want to resist when we feel controlled or forced to do something. This is magnified when you’re an adolescent. They don’t like being forced to do anything they don’t want to do.
So take my advice. Don’t force your older child to include their younger sibling if they are adamantly protesting. When your kids feel the freedom to say no, you increase the likelihood that they will say yes and be kinder and more inclusive in the future.

Don’t intervene unless you really have to!

As difficult as it may be to listen to your kids fight, give them the opportunity to work it out themselves. If you always intervene, your kids will miss out on learning how to work through conflict, negotiate, compromise, and share how they’re feeling.

Kids also argue to get their parents attention and to reinforce their roles in the family (one is the “troublemaker” and one is “the victim”).

When we continue to intervene and rescue one sibling from the other we reinforce these roles. Not only that, the one who tends to get picked on doesn’t learn to stand up for themselves.

Only intervene if things are escalating and becoming emotionally or physically violent. Without singling one of your kids out, call a timeout and have them discuss later when things have cooled down.

 

Do These 5 Things Instead:

Coach your kids on how to handle conflict and negative situations.

Pick a good time and talk about potential conflicts that happen within your family. Allow them to come up with some strategies. Include yourself in this process (because we all struggle with navigating conflict and can improve!).

Here are a few conflict resolutions tools, encourage them to:

Be direct about what they don’t like that the other person is doing.

Share with their sibling how they feel. “I feel angry when you…”

Think about what they want and to ask for it directly.

 

Notice if they are feeling resentful, hurt or angry about something and to talk about it.

Get them talking. Encourage your home to be a place where you listen to each other and take in feedback. One of the sayings I share with my kids is, “It’s okay to argue and we will have conflict in this family but we work it out.”

Affirm each of your kids equally.

It’s easy to label our kids, “He’s the difficult one.” “She’s the easy one.” “He’s the messy and lazy one.” “She’s the hard worker.”
Each of our kid has gifts and unique personalities. Oftentimes, a tween or teen’s most irritating behavior trait can be their greatest gift and strength when steered in a positive direction and viewed through a different lens.

Set Clear Ground Rules.

Get clear about what is okay and not okay during an argument. Keep the rules simple, for example; no physical violence ever, no damaging property and no name calling or personal insults.
Make sure your kids understand your ground rules and the consequences.

And Finally, Make One On One Time With Each Of Your Kids A Priority.

Spending one to one time with each of your kids will result in less conflict.
One of the number one reasons siblings fight is for attention from the parent.

If our kids aren’t getting the positive attention they need and crave they will seek it by acting out in negative ways. A sure-fire way to get attention is fighting with a sibling.

If you want to have less conflict in your home, spend more one to one time with each of your kids. If one of your kids is the instigator in the family, chances are they need more positive affirmation and attention from you.
When kids receive equal amounts of praise, positive attention and affection it lessens sibling rivalry and conflicts.