How do you handle sibling fights? We have two daughters who seem to fight every day despite our attempts to teach them to get along. I’ve been reading a lot about how to deal with your kids fighting, but continue to remind myself that it’s normal and healthy for sisters to argue.
When we found out we were going to have a sister for Annabelle, I knew there would be a lot of sister fights in our future. However, I did not anticipate the sibling fights to start at such an early age. Annabelle is four and a half and Ailey is 22 months old. They really love each other and play together frequently. They enjoy the the same activities: babies, reading, coloring, the dollhouse, and even watching the same movies. However, there are feelings of jealousy and rivalry between the girls, as well as difficulty communicating since Ailey is so young.
While sibling rivalry often starts before the second child is even born, it will continue to evolve as the siblings grow older. Everyone wants their children to be best friends, but it is important to be conscious of how you treat each child. Be proactive in giving your children one-on-one time and avoid special treatment. What is “fair” to one child, might not be appropriate for the other. Make sure the kids have their own time and space to be alone when needed. Most importantly, show your children LOVE and support equally. Make them feel safe, important, and that their needs are met at all times.
It is OK if your children fight.
As much as I hate sibling disagreements, it is healthy for the girls to argue and learn how to get along. The arguments are also an opportunity for the kids to learn how to handle conflict at an early age. We all know there will be plenty of conflicts in their future with people who aren’t family and this prepares them for those unfortunate instances.
What to Do When Siblings Fight
Even though it’s healthy for a few fights here and there, it is important to monitor sibling fights and break them up correctly.
- Stop the fight before the crying starts. If you hear your children arguing, physically separate the children to allow them to calm down.
- Stay calm. If you yell, they will yell. Save your energy for giving positive feedback once the fight has been resolved.
- Wait until the fight is over to talk about what happened. Do NOT place blame, since both children are usually responsible. With younger children, they won’t be listening if they’re very upset. I make a point to talk to my daughte
rs separately in different contexts due to their age difference.
- Treat all children fairly, but remember a 4 year old will sit in time out longer than a 1 year old.
When my children are fighting, I encourage them to go outside and run around. The distraction of the outdoors is sometimes calming enough to dissolve the argument and make them forget they were fighting. I know my daughters will argue from time to time for the rest of their lives, but I want them to know how to react appropriately during a fight.
There are times when I become overwhelmed when the siblings fight. I count to 10 slowly to calm myself down if the bickering returns before I react and talk to other parents who can relate. If you’re ever feeling that the siblings’ conflicts are severe or you cannot handle the fights, never hesitate to reach out to the pediatrician for advice.
At the end of the day, we just want our children to love one another and know they have a built in best friend for life.