If you have more than one child in your house, odds are your children are best friends one minute and arguing with each other 87 seconds later.
Siblings argue for many different reasons, depending on their personality and age. When children are young, they often argue over toys and their parent’s attention. As they turn into teenagers, the arguments are often over sharing things like the family car, telephones and computers. Teens also become jealous of their siblings over accomplishments, such as academics, sports or popularity issues.
“When children are given the opportunity to work out problems with their siblings, they learn life-long negotiation skills and how to get along with others, which requires consideration, compromise and reconciliation,” says Susan Tordella, founder of www.raisingable.com. No magic cure can make your children stop arguing with each other, but here are some ways you can reduce sibling rivalry in your house:
- Be a coach, not a referee. When possible, encourage your children to work out the problem themselves. Tordella recommends parents tell their kids, “I know you can come up with a solution” and walk away. “It’s amazing how conflicts dissipate when there’s no audience,” says Tordella. It also teaches them problem-resolution skills. The exception is when there is a physical argument or if one child is being consistently picked on by the other one.
- Separate your kids. The best way to ensure your children want to be near each other is to suggest that they stay away from each other. If your kids are having a tough time getting along, help them become engaged in separate activities. You may have to find activities for each one that the other one is not interested in or send one child to a friend’s house to play.
- Talk about respect. If your preschooler grabs his sister’s book out of her hands or your teen bad-mouths her brother to her friends, they are not respecting their sibling. Make respect a family value and talk about how you should respect yourself, other people, animals and your belongings.
- Put the toy in timeout. When your child cannot figure out a way to share a toy or other item, such as a video game or computer, remove the item and neither child can use it. “If they can’t agree on what TV program to watch, turn off the TV. If they fight over which car they get to use on Friday night, don’t let them use either car,” says Tordella. “This takes parents out of the role of judge/jury/executioner and taking sides.”