Success & Abundance
Can Good Come from Fighting?
Managing those everyday squabbles.
Published: September 22, 2012
by Simone Cave
Tips on teaching kids to get along.
There’s no doubt about it, having two or more children is a wonderful experience and watching them play together is one of the highlights of being a parent. But there’s no getting away from the fact that siblings fight.
Here’s how to manage some of the everyday squabbles and teach your children to get along in the long term.
Jealous of the baby
Children can become jealous of their baby sibling before they are even born and may play up increasingly as the birth approaches. The best thing you can do is play with your child and give him at least 15 minutes of undivided attention a day as this will help him feel secure.
When the baby is born, your eldest may well feel calmer as he realizes the reality isn’t too bad. But be prepared for the occasional unprovoked overzealous squeeze as he “cuddles” the baby, or even a punch. If this happens, don’t lose the plot. Babies are tough—after all they survive being squeezed through birth canals, yanked by forceps, or less than delicate handling during emergency Caesareans. So try not to feel too upset or angry; just calmly explain that we don’t hurt babies. And give lots of praise next time your eldest is being kind to the baby.
It’s not unusual for toddlers and young children to become overwhelmed by mixed emotions towards baby siblings, which can mean they are suddenly rough with the baby. Avoid the temptation to shield the baby and be overprotective, as this will make your eldest feel excluded and increasingly resentful.
From around 16 months your youngest will be capable of winding up her older sibling. This often leads to a physical fight and the temptation is to punish your eldest child and comfort your youngest. It’s important to listen to your eldest’s side of the story and sympathize with the fact his little sibling has, for example, just destroyed his Lego. Once he is calm, he is more likely to listen to strategies for managing his anger better next time—perhaps by telling you. Or by keeping his Lego out of toddler reach. If a pattern starts to emerge, you’ll need to punish your eldest; for example no television or computers for a day. This will help him control his rage because he knows there’s a consequence.
The advantages of sibling fighting
The relentless fighting between siblings can take its toll on most parents’ patience, but there are a few benefits:
- Teaches negotiation skills
- Helps develop assertiveness, compromise and self-control
- Prepares children for the playground as they learn to stand up for themselves
- Teaches saying sorry and forgiveness
Letting go of any idealistic dreams of our children always playing sweetly together, and accepting that punching, kicking and jealousy are normal, will help us remain calm as we manage the constant squabbles.
Simone Cave and Dr Caroline Fertleman are the bestselling authors of Your Baby Week by Week.