Sibling relationships can be a wonderful sight but at other times also a sore one. One moment your children are giggling and playing so endearingly together. The next moment, one of them snatches the other’s toy and the bickering begins. This then can escalate to crying, shouting and at times even hitting.
Sibling relationships are important to a child’s character development as such relationships allow them to test out limitations in a social context, practice negotiations, learn about compromising and expression of emotions. These skills are all ones your children will use in the real world with others.
Thus, it is important to allow your children to bicker in the hopes that they learn to problem-solve situations on their own. Of course, physical aggression toward one another is not acceptable. So how can you make sure that bickering results in useful learning experiences?
- Don’t rescue or intervene immediately. Let your children find a solution to their problem. Keep an eye on them so that bickering doesn’t escalate.
- If your children seem to be on the right path but just can’t move forward from negotiations, you may want to provide a tip or two. Say something like “maybe swopping your toys would be a good idea?”
- If your children still are not able to come to a mutually beneficial agreement then you can decide for them. The best way to deal with continued bickering and arguing now is to take away the toy your children are arguing about. Say “since we can’t play nicely together, mommy will set the toy aside until you can play nicely together.” Remove the toy but do not use an angry tone. Your children should not feel like mom’s anger has caused their loss of the toy. Instead, when you remain calm and matter-of-fact about this decision, your children will soon learn to discuss and negotiate better results as they mature.
- If they do manage to compromise or share, make sure you notice and praise your children so they are motivated to continue with such behaviors and reduce siblings rivalry.
Dr. Vanessa von Auer is the Clinic Director/Psychologist of Von Auer Psychology Centre VAPC. She has spent her career helping parents learn effective parenting strategies, has helped children process their emotional difficulties in healthy ways and has helped families grower closer in their dynamics with one another. For more information, visit www.vapc.sg