After reading Siblings Without Rivalry by Adele Faber and Elaine Mazlish, I had to question whether or not this title was realistic. Don’t all siblings have difficulty getting along sometimes? The answer is yes – all brothers and sisters go through conflicts that may cause you to pull your hair out. However, there is a difference between normal sibling rivalry and behavior that is not typical between brothers and sisters. There are also plenty of ways that parents can both reduce the tension in the household and actually exacerbate the situation.
Why do Brothers and Sisters Fight?
• Siblings fight due to developmental levels. Younger children are going to argue over “silly” things, such as sharing toys and sitting too close to each other.
• Brothers and sisters may not get along because their personalities are either too different or too similar. You also may have two children with very strong personalities.
• Siblings of children with special needs may have difficulty with understanding why their brother or sister gets more attention than they do.
• Sex and age can also cause sibling rivalry. Children of the same sex and close in age may be more competitive due to having similar interests.
• Parenting plays a major role. How you resolve conflict may impact your children’s problem-solving ability. As a parent, you also have the power to increase or decrease the tension based on how you react.
• Fighting amongst siblings is normal. How and how much they fight is the question to be answered when determining what atypical behavior is. Physical interactions between siblings are never okay and should always be addressed. You may never fully eliminate arguing between siblings, but the frequency can always be reduced.
How to Help Siblings Get Along
• The house rules (e.g. following directions the first time, keeping one’s hands and feet oneself) should be simple, clear, and visually posted. The children should know the rewards for following the rules and the consequences for disobeying.
• Serious behaviors, such as physical interactions, should not be tolerated. Immediate consequences (e.g. time out and loss of reward) should be implemented.
• It is important for your children to have their own space and belongings. However, they also need to learn to share. Have your child select one item in their room and one toy that is theirs only. The rest of the house and toys are free for sharing.
• Sometimes, one child seems like the instigator. Try not to treat that child differently. It takes two, or three, or four to tango.
• Try not to always step in. Learning how to resolve conflict on one’s own is a natural part of growing up.
• Attempt to structure family time as much as possible. When children have clear expectations, inappropriate behaviors typically decline.
• When you do have to step in, don’t add to the chaos. Keep calm and use less language. You may need to separate the kids until the emotions die down.
• If one of your children has special needs, communicate openly with the other children. Plan special time with them and create roles to help them understand their brother or sister’s differences. For example, invite the sibling into therapy and show them how they can be a teacher.
Seeking Professional Help For Sibling Rivalry
In rare cases, sibling rivalry may cause too much disruption in the family such as causing physical harm to family members or marital problems. Sibling rivalry may also stem from more significant differences such as depression, anxiety, and behavioral disorders. If you feel that your family could use some help, do not hesitate to talk to your physician or seek out assistance for yourself. Behavior analysts, social workers, and mental health counselors can be helpful.