12/7/2012 10:02:30 PM
Handling Sibling Challenges
by Dr. Alanna Levine
As anyone with more than one child can attest to, sibling challenges are a common issue. Many parents with more than one child often find them bickering, battling, and belly aching on a regular basis. But siblings fighting over toys and games isn’t necessarily a bad thing. These instances present teachable moments where children can learn to problem solve and compromise. When these sibling disputes arise, parents need not always get involved. The lessons learned will largely depend on how parents go about handling them!
What I recommend to my patients is to avoid stepping in whenever possible. I know that sounds like a tough thing to do, because as parents we tend to want to jump right in and bring their squabble to an end. But as long as there is no danger or it isn’t something involving physical harm, it’s a good idea to let the children try and work it out themselves.
When children are able to work out a problem on their own together, they will become more confident, as well as gain valuable skills that can last them a lifetime. They will learn how to problem solve, negotiate, and to make up with others.
If you do have to step in to break something up, try to give them some space and separate them. Do your best to avoid placing blame or automatically siding with one sibling over another. It’s best to guide them to come up with a solution to the problem. Otherwise, they will always be looking to an adult to act as the referee.
It’s also important for parents to be good role models in this area. When children see that the adults in their home solve their disagreements in a healthy, productive way, they will pick up on that and likely follow suit. If they see the adults yelling and storming off, they will be more likely to copy that behavior. Also, when you catch your children playing well together, be sure to compliment them on it. Children respond much better to positive reinforcement than they do criticism in a heated moment.
Sibling challenges may not be something we can completely avoid, but if we keep a level head about them and avoid micromanaging, we will be taking steps to minimize them and help our children gain some useful social skills along the way!