How to Help Siblings Resolve Conflict

08 March 2022

If you have a brother or a sister, then you would know how it is to bicker with a sibling. It doesn’t matter whether you’re close or not—growing up in the same household would have you butting heads with each other at some point in your life. They even say that siblings start to fight with each other as early as three years old. And even when you’re already both adults with your own families, you still manage to find reasons to fight.

They say that we hold more resentment or take it more seriously when we are in a brawl with a family member. It’s the shared history of our whole being that makes our lives intertwined with theirs.

Siblings are able to solve problems on their own with good communication but there are some instances where parents have to intervene. They should help ease the tension when the going gets tough.

Another factor is age so parents must approach a sibling conflict with caution, depending on how old their children in conflict are.

Children (3 to 12 years old)

When you were still three up until the age of 12, you weren’t able to manage and control your emotions well. Children will shout and hit others without being aware that their hands are heavy and are causing pain. They might reach out to their parents who they feel have been paying more attention to their siblings and giving them less. And kids at these ages are not able to see the bigger picture and focus only on their view of the situation.Raisingchildren.net.au says that humans are born with their own temperaments, referring to the way each of us reacts and behave in response to our external environment. There are others who are flexible and adaptive to their environment while some are noticeably shy. There are others who are able to manage their anger and stay calm while a few could not exercise enough control. There are some who are assertive and some who prefer to keep things to themselves. Of course, when opposing temperaments clash, fights will come up.

Research has found that children ages 3 to 7 years old are more likely to have physical fights while children aged 8 to 12 years old have more verbal fights.

Teenagers (13 to 19 years old)

At this point, you’ve probably graduated from hitting others so instead of having physical fights, teenagers have more verbal ones. Even though they’ve aged, siblings would argue as much as when they were younger or in some instances, even more frequently. Older siblings typically assume authority in a sibling relationship which makes the younger sibling feel that his or her independence is being meddled with. It is also in this phase of their lives that we humans look and hope to discover our individuality. Teenagers try their best to set themselves apart from their siblings by having different likes and interests. Raisingchildren.net.au lists down equality and fairness, personal space, possessions, and friends as common areas of conflict.

Grown Adults (20 years old and above)

Usually, fights that occur at this age are serious. When you fight at this phase, most lead to estrangement or one side choosing to keep mum and apart from another.

Reader’s Digest says that there is only less than 5 percent of the American population that accounts for completely estranged siblings. But in an Oakland University survey, only 26 percent of adults aged 18 to 65 years old have highly supportive sibling relationships, 19 percent are apathetic and 16 percent are hostile. Most estranged situations come out of hostile siblings and grievance collectors. Conflicts are usually concerning the sibling’s partner or beau, different priorities, care arrangements for aging parents, unresolved issues from childhood, and lack of communication.

How to Avoid

1. They might all be different but develop a close relationship with each one of your kids.

Remember to always be proactive rather than reactive. Show your kids that you love them individually and give your undivided attention to them one-on-one.

2. Don’t fight where your children are within ear range and eyesight.

Kids copy the behavior that they observe in their surroundings. If you and your partner are constantly bickering within sight or hearing distance, they will most likely adapt this bickering attitude.

3. Don’t compare one kid to another and get rid of labels or titles for your loved ones.

Do not label your son Francis as the “funny one” while Angelo as “the smart one.” You might think it’s giving compliments but you are subconsciously putting them under pressure to live up to such labels. It might also cause unhealthy comparisons. Stop saying things like “I wish you were calmer like your older sibling” in your regular lingo. Do not compare or pit your children against each other.

4. Do individual and shared home activities.

Let your children shine where they want to but also remember to remind them not to compare themselves to each other and others. You may also find a shared activity that you can bond with them such as animated movie nights or drawing sessions.

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5. Use positive language and affirmation at home.

Always use positive language so that your kids are raised in a household filled with love. You should make your kids feel loved at all times, even when you’re scolding them or giving them advice.

6. Open communication channels.

Before intervening in a sibling conflict, ask permission first from your children if they want you to get involved. You are only allowed to help them out if the situation becomes physically violent. If your children are already grown adults, you may butt in when asked and then try to help make a workaround that will force the estranged siblings to patch things up.

7. Talk about a fight with calm heads.

Open the floor for emotions to burst once they have rested and they have cooler heads by now. Make sure that each of them is understood and heard. You may help them by writing down feelings in a journal so that they could better understand themselves and why they reacted the way they did. In this way, you teach the young kids to solve problems, empathize and communicate.

8. Prepare consequences for all the kids.

In any instance, you are not allowed to take sides. You should not identify which of them is the victim and which one is the aggressor. The consequence should be the same for all your children in conflict. One child could admit guilt to which you’d respond with appreciation for his bravery but still proceed with punishment.