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Sibling rivalry: “Safe” conflict

One of the biggest challenges parents often face is dealing with sibling rivalry. No matter how hard you try to treat your children fairly and provide a loving and conflict-free home, sibling rivalry can erupt.

Siblings in conflict

Rather than become exasperated by it, dismissing it or even punishing it, you can use the experience of sibling rivalry to promote the bonds between your children and teach them a few important life lessons about conflict resolution.

1Acknowledge conflicts

Even between the closest of siblings, conflicts occur. Denying it or declaring that sisters or brothers should “never” disagree can intensify the conflict between the siblings and internally for each child. This doesn’t mean you need to condone disagreeement or the unchecked bickering that can sometimes erupt, but it doesn’t mean you should pretend it doesn’t exist, either.

Conflicts happen at home and in the rest of the world. We learn our fist lessons in conflict resolution at home. While it may be distressing on some levels to see out children spar over what we think are inane issues, this kind of rivalry and conflict can set the stage for some very important life lessons.

2Give them tools

When your children engage in sibling rivalry, whether it’s conflict or competition, you have the opportunity to teach them conflict resolution skills. You’ll likely have to reinforce the lessons multiple times over the coming years, but don’t let that keep you from starting now!

Abilities such as listening, expressing oneself in a constructive manner and looking for compromise, among others,  are all skills your kids are going to need. Better to have them learn in a safe environment, with people they know will continue to love them unconditionally.

3Support the bonds

Through all this, reinforce the idea of your siblings as a unique team. And as such an unique and irreplaceable team, it’s especially important to treat one another as each wants to be treated. These are the only siblings each is going to have, and it’s a bond that needs to endure into adulthood. The bond and understanding between siblings often is an important touchstone as our children age. Burning — or even badly singeing — just isn’t a good idea.

Sibling rivalry seems to happen no matter what we do. Learning to use the experience for positive lessons can be challenging, but it’s worth it.

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