Can’t We All Just Get Along?

July 20, 2022  |  Published by

Often when we dream of having multiple children, we imagine them holding hands, sharing their toys and secrets, and playing together beautifully.

Then reality hits.

At one point or another, sibling rivalry will rear its ugly head and parents will feel like the referee at a national debate... or worse, an MMA match.

Can't We All Just Get Along (Blog Body Photo)

But why? Why won't your kids just get along? There are many causes of sibling rivalry that can range from lack of social language and inability to self-regulate to difficulty empathizing and different temperament styles. Additionally, these issues can sometimes be intensified by family culture, especially around conflict resolution.

A degree of competition and sibling rivalry can be expected in almost every family. It is often part of healthy development as children battle for attention and resources, and try to define themselves as individuals. Short bursts of verbal, and even sometimes physical conflict, are common with young children.

However, if there is more chaos than calm, you might want to look at some exacerbating factors:
1. High amounts of stress in the home or in children themselves
2. Boredom, hunger, or exhaustion
3. Struggles for perceived scarcity of resources or attention
4. Copying problem-solving styles of parent(s)

Parents can also look for signs that natural competitiveness is escalating into something more by noticing if fights are intensifying in duration, level, or frequency, as well as if the relationship appears to be characterized by conflict rather than occasional disagreements.

But I get it... you're tired. The best thing to do to bring peace back into the home is talk with children about their feelings and conflict resolution at times when there is no active conflict. Young children have a hard time differentiating between "fair" and "equal" treatment. So helping them understand that everyone gets' what they need, when they need it' can go a long way in preventing jealousy and competition. Try not to compare children to each other (or anyone else) and avoid labeling them, especially in front of others.

Other actions that can help include:
1. Encouraging children to work together on tasks
2. Reading books together about conflict or rivalry
3. Talking about conflict and rules of engagement, early and often
4. Teaching them ways to brainstorm solutions
5. Showing them positive ways to seek attention

Rivalry and conflict are often a normal part of growing up with siblings, but with a few proactive steps, you can avoid the worst battles and raise children that see each other as partners rather than adversaries.

Lou Durant
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