Tired of listening to seemingly endless bickering between
your kids? Take heart-a good old-fashioned case of sibling rivalry
can actually have a positive effect on kids' development, according
to a study conducted at the Centre for Family Research at the
University of Cambridge. The researchers looked at roughly 100
second-born children at age 2, 3 and 6, along with their older
siblings (who were about two years older), says lead author Claire
"By 6, they were arguing with older siblings on very equal
footing, negotiating compromises and finding imaginative solutions
to conflict," Hughes says.
The mechanism behind this phenomenon? Likely the
day-to-day sibling conflicts parents of young children know all too
"So getting into sustained conversations with siblings
seemed helpful, even if those conversations included a few
disagreements," Hughes says.
These findings can be a comfort to parents in the thick of
"Overall, the take-home message for parents is not to
worry too much about verbal spats between siblings, as these can be
good opportunities for learning," Hughes says.
Fighting does, of course, become problematic if those
conflicts develop into an ongoing pattern of physical fighting,
which could actually make it more difficult for the younger child
to make friends down the road.
So instead of fretting over every little disagreement,
Hughes suggests taking on fights by playing the mediator instead of
making a firm ruling-especially without knowing all of the details.
Set ground rules, she says, of "listening to and respecting other's
viewpoints, but letting the children work out a solution for
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