Learning Care Group News: July 30, 2012

When Siblings Fight: 5 Tips For Fewer Squabbles

One day, your husband brings home another woman, saying, “I love you so much, honey, that I brought home another wife. We will share everything we have with her.” Flip the scenario if you’re a dad. You get the picture.

Sounds horrible, right? That’s how our children feel when we bring home a new baby. They bravely smile and agree to go along with the program. And there’s a part of them that truly grows to love the new baby. But you can’t blame them for being upset, too.

The early months are usually pretty uneventful. The squabbles begin when the new baby starts crawling and messing with your toddler’s toys. Your big kid’s noggin hasn’t developed the capacity for much patience, self-calming or sharing yet. It’s a recipe for screaming and hitting.

It’s devastating to see our children fight. But it’s an inescapable part of growing up. We can’t stop the fighting, but we can help our children master the jealousy, greed, and aggression underneath their skirmishes. Each fight is an opportunity for us to help them tame these tricky feelings – and ultimately, grow to be close allies.

Here’s what to do:

  1. Manage expectations. Don’t be shocked when they fight – be thrilled when they get along.
  2. Don’t get mad. Your own strong feelings will ratchet up the intensity. Stay calm.
  3. Don’t leave little ones alone. Ever.
  4. More talking = less hitting. Discuss arguments and fights afterward. Do role-plays for how to resolve differences with words instead of fists.
  5. Hitting = limits. Be firm and constant in your insistence that feelings are OK – hitting is not.

How do you handle sibling skirmishes in your home?

About the Author

Dr. Heather Wittenberg

Dr. Wittenberg is a psychologist specializing in the development of babies, toddlers, preschoolers — and parents. She offers no-hype, practical parenting advice on her blog BabyShrink — rooted in science, and road tested in her own home as the mother of four young children. She has helped thousands of parents over the years and knows that the most common problems with young children — sleep, feeding, potty training and behavior — can be the most difficult ones to solve.