Can’t They Just Get Along? Why Sibling Fighting Is a Natural and Important Part of Life

Staff Writer
Baystateparent Magazine

What if we told you that this is actually a natural and positive part of your children’s lives? According to some experts, kids ages 3 to 7 years old engage in some kind of conflict 3.5 times an hour. Per hour? Yes, per hour.

When they fight over possessions, tease each other and even when they are getting along — they are learning valuable life lessons. Lessons such as, how to socialize, negotiate, stand up for themselves, and find their strengths and weaknesses. Girls are teaching their brothers about the mystery of well…girls and brothers are teaching their sisters about the inner workings of guys. A few years ago, Time Magazine published an article stating that siblings are the most significant relationship any of us will have in our lifetime. Our spouses come later in life and most of us outlive our parents. For better or worse, siblings have tremendous influence on each other just simply for the fact that we will know them the longest.

At first, the facts in the Time article scared us to death. Every time, we heard a fight brewing between our young children, we’d want to shout; “She is your sister/brother. You MUST love one another.” This, we found out, is OK to think but not OK to actually say out loud. Just as siblings have the ability to influence each other, we parents have the ability to create some family peace in our homes by changing how and when we intervene in the sibling relationship.

We found the best book for parents who want their children to simply get along is Siblings Without Rivalry: How to Help Your Children Live Together So You Can Live Too by Adele Faber & Elaine Mazlish. Here’s an example of how their magic approach work. Jack is mad because his sister Maddie went into his room and took a book. He comes to tell you all about it. What’s your first move?

A. “Oh, Jack. What’s the big deal? She’ll return it.”

B. “Maddie! Give that book back right now!

C. “Boy, Jack. That must make you mad that your sister did that.”

Correct answer: C. Answer A, doesn’t acknowledge Jack’s anger towards his sister making him feel misunderstood. Answer B, teaches Jack that Dad is on his side and not Maddie’s. Answer C let’s Jack know Dad understands and appreciates how he feels. From there you can remedy the situation without creating more angst among your kids.

Here’s another example:

You’re dishing out ice cream to your children when one inevitably screams, “Hey, he’s has more ice cream than me!” What do you do?

A. “Oh, it sounds like you may be hungry. Do you want another scoop?”

B. “Oops, you’re right, he does have more. Here you go!”

C. “That’s not true. You both have the same!”

Correct answer: A. Answer A takes the issue of equality out. You give according to need. Answer B, will likely result in five more back and fourths of who has more. Answer C, will not satisfy this unhappy costumer.

So, in the next 15 minutes or so you may hear the beginnings of another bickering match. You can discover and practice healthy ways to guide your children towards a positive relationship. Take heed, think good thoughts and remember, they are learning about themselves. This relationship and what they learn from it will aid them throughout their lives.