Dealing with Sibling Rivalry

Dealing with Sibling Rivalry

My husband was an only child, and one day he turned to me and asked "When are our kids going to stop fighting?" And I said "Probably when they're 27 and 28." I think that this is an issue that can drive you crazy as a parent.

One of the best things that you can do when you've got fighting kids on your hands is to institute a "No Fault" policy in your house, so you escape the constant role as referee. Make it a family rule that as long as behavior is not dangerous and destructive, no one is about to get hurt and blood is not on the floor, tattling is not allowed. When someone comes to tell on the other one and a fight doesn't break up when you ask them to stop, or your child's emotions run away from them, make it a rule that both kids go to their room regardless of who started the fight.

By not taking sides, you stop the dynamic of victim and persecutor. Siblings stop running to you to intervene. Instead you'll hear "don't tell mom cause she'll send us to time-out." When behavior is dangerous or destructive, you're going to handle it differently by jumping in and they're both going to be in trouble because you're assuming that there is a larger thing than just having one aggressor on your hands.

Ultimately, you want to teach kids to negotiate with each other. It can be as simple as when they watch a video, they have to both decide or there will be no video. Even if they are different ages, they have to compromise between them. Another thing that becomes a source of fighting between siblings is toys. What you should do is give toys "time-out". You can create a forbidden toy zone above your TV cabinet and call it "toy jail". These are toys that they were having trouble sharing…and they go to toy jail for a certain period of time.

Tell them if they don't want to share toys they have to keep them in their rooms or the toys become public sharing. You give them a sense that they do have things where there are moments that they don't have to share, moments where they can decide not to get along, but they have to retreat to their own space to do it.