Rivalry & Kids Fighting
We all know the scene. Your children are having a
row, each is blaming the other and they are calling you and expecting you to sort it out. Meantime, you are frustrated
and disappointed that they can’t seem to get along and, in most cases, asking what happened so you can judge
the situation and assign appropriate punishments. We know the
“Mum/Dad – he/she hit me and won’t give me back my
|| “Oh for goodness sake, calm down and tell me what
||“he/she started it!”
||“No I didn’t – you did!”
||"he hit me"
||"Did you hit your sister/brother?"
||"Yes, but he/she kicked me first."
||"No I didn't - you took my game!"
||"Did you take the game?"
||"You always take his/her side"
And so on and on and on…….this usually escalates
into a huge row, the three of you are shouting and everyone is getting very stressed
Ongoing competition and rows between siblings is
one of the most common problems that parents encounter in their families. It can be quite upsetting as
parents generally hope that their children will get on and will be good friends and are disappointed when
this does not happen. A common pattern is see the older child as having more responsibility and to expect
more from him/ her, but it is often the case that the younger child is equally culpable and the older child
can feel he/she is being treated unfairly.
A different approach is to see the problem as
shared between your children and that they are equally responsible. This means that you don’t take sides in a
dispute and always try to be fair. For example, if you catch the two of them fighting you don’t get involved
as a referee and try to decide who is ‘at fault’ but instead you ask them to sort the problem out themselves.
If the fighting continues then you discipline them equally – perhaps the game has to stop and they are both
sent to their rooms for a period. In addition, if one of the children comes to you with a complaint about the
other you don’t take sides as you help them deal with it. For example, if your daughter comes and says her
brother has been teasing her, you might sympathise with her and help think how she is going to deal with
this, but you don’t get involved and discipline your son.
Though fights and arguments between brothers and
sisters are part and parcel of growing up, excessive fighting is a problem and it is important to take steps
to solve it and to teach your children how to get on with one another in the long term. Try and work out if
there is anything at the bottom of the squabbling. Does one of your children feel inadequate and jealous of
the other who might be getting on better at school? Or are you inadvertently favouring one of the children,
(e.g. it is easier to let a younger child away with things and ‘expect more’ from the older child). Once you
have a sense of what is causing the fighting then you can do something positive about it. For example, you
can resolve to spend special time with the child who feels inadequate, doing an activity with them that he is
good at, thus building his confidence, or you can resolve to be fairer with an older child, giving both
children equal attention. Some other ideas are as follows:
Set up shared activities with you and the two children, when you can help and guide your
children in playing well together. When you see any moments of sharing, be sure to notice this saying for
example, ‘you gave your brother some of your cars, it is good to see you sharing’. You could also establish a
reward system, for example they each get a sticker any time you see them sharing or being kind to one
Help the children solve their own problems. Rather
than jumping in the minute they have a row, give them time to sort it out themselves (unless they are harming
one another). If you do get involved instead of being a referee and imposing a solution, step back and help
the children come up with their own ideas saying for example ‘OK both of you want to play with the play
station, what can we do?’ If you take time to listen, often the kids will come up with their own
Set aside time for a ‘family meeting’ to discuss
the issues and come up with ideas for solving the problem and helping the children to sort out their
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