What To Do When Your Kids Hate Each Other

Sibling rivalry is inevitable.  In fact, in the 2-4 age group, kids will have some kind of fight every 6.3 minutes.”  That is almost 10 fights an hour!

Child psychologist and Kids in the House expert, Rebecca Eberlin, emphasizes the importance of sibling relationships.  “Helping your kids to make friends with each other offers them the opportunity to really strengthen their conflict resolution skills,” she says.  “We see children navigating conflict at home, being the children that can really navigate conflicts outside of the home.

What can parents do to help resolve sibling conflict and form deeper bonds between their children?

Here are 4 expert tips on how to help your kids get along:

1. Never compare your kids

The number one issue that causes lasting resentment between siblings is parental comparison.  When a parent compares one child to another, what that child understands is that they are not good enough.  According to Kids in the House expert, Vanessa Van Petten, it creates conflict between siblings and can increase tensions in the household.  Her advice is for parents to teach older kids how to mentor younger ones.  “A lot of the times [children] don’t realize they actually are a role model for their younger sibling,” she says.  “If they take their younger sibling out to play or to talk to them about relationships, it can set up a nice mentor relationship between the two of them and lessen rivalry in the household.”

2. Do not tolerate sibling bullying

Sibling bullying is the most common type of bullying: 75% of kids report being bullied by a sibling. This type of bullying can be extremely harmful and create lasting trauma for kids.  It is up to parents to nip any negative behavior in the bud and emphasize mutual respect before bullying gets out of hand. Dr. Stephanie Mihalas recommends determining the underlying cause of the behavior.  “You need to identify if there is something going on internally,” she say.  “Once you’ve figured out if there is something going on in the academic environment, if there’s something going on in the peer environment, if there’s something going on in the home environment, you can decide what the appropriate intervention is for your child.”  Sibling aggression should never be tolerated.  Creating a safe environment for kids is a parent’s number one priority. 

3. Reinforce positive communication

Dr. Pamela Varady, a Child and Adult Psychologist and sought-after parenting expert, recommends parents use descriptive praise to shape good sibling behavior.  “Mostly what we do is criticize. You need to give the children at least 10 descriptive praise statements a day, she says. “And you can do it to both siblings at the same time. Wow! Both of you are sitting here eating. Nobody’s fighting. You guys are great siblings. Thank you.” 

4. Mediate but do not judge

According to best selling author, Betsy Brown Braun, “When a parent gets involved in sibling fighting, he tends to be in the role of judge and jury. When that happens, inevitably, you are showing favoritism towards one child or the other” and that is something you want to avoid.  When parents intervene in sibling arguments, it is important that they do so in a constructive and unbiased way, and allow their children to resolve their own problems.  One way to mediate a sibling argument is to frame the issue and restate each child’s position, and then allow them to problem solve together. 

For more expert tips on sibling rivalry and how to help your kids get along, check out kidsinthehouse.com

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