Yelling, hitting, and fighting between siblings is a natural part of growing up.   Tips to help children learn to resolve interpersonal conflicts.

According to the Mayo Clinic, occasional bickering and name-calling prove that a child is learning to speak up for themselves.  Excess confrontations or physical violence, however, can affect the whole family. Constant fighting causes emotional rifts that erode relationships.  Anger and resentment spread through a family like fire, claiming the peace of other members. Frequent fighting may be hiding a more serious issue. Sibling bullying affects self-confidence in younger children that can continue into their adult years. How can parents help children learn to resolve interpersonal conflicts without verbal or physical violence?

  • Encourage Cooperation. Teach your children how to communicate and compromise to reduce conflict.  Create opportunities for cooperative play. Build something from wood or cardboard, make a dessert, or design Halloween costumes together. The goal is to have all the children use their talents to help the group achieve a goal. Define each person’s role clearly before beginning the activity.
  • Keep things fair. Make sure there is always enough space, materials, and time for everyone to participate in group activities. Use a small timer for sharing limited resources. Establish consequences for children that insist on more than their share. Explain these consequences before the activity begins.
  • Teach conflict resolution. For younger ones, a game of rock, paper, scissors can be a quick way of resolving issues. If compromise can’t be achieved, let them know to seek an adult to mediate before the situation gets out of control.
  • Prioritize Private Time.  As adults, we understand the importance of quiet time to decompress and readjust. This coping mechanism works for children too. Solo play helps children develop in important ways.
  • Encourage independence. Children who know how to entertain themselves won’t need others to do it. This reduces the chances of a fight because someone won’t follow the rules.
  • Improve imagination. Bored children will use any means of stimulation available, including picking on siblings. Solo imaginative play gives them something unique and interesting to share.

Teach independence. If a child knows he doesn’t have to play with another to be happy, they are more likely to walk away when conflict starts. Solo play gives children the opportunity to understand themselves and their needs better. This leads to clearer verbal communication and less fighting.

Real World Value

Sibling rivalry is more than a family issue. The abilities to compromise, cooperate, and communicate are skills they will need through life. Motivate your child to use positive interpersonal skills outside of the home.  Model desired behaviors by treating other adults in your community with respect.  Ask for your child’s opinion when possible, so they know their thoughts are important.  Encourage children to use conflict resolution skills with peers.

Helping your children learn healthy ways to express their needs and resolve differences takes patience, time, and consistency. It’s tough, but the effort you put into sharing positive interpersonal skills with your young ones will continue to bring them countless benefits as they grow.

Article Courtesy of Stepping Forward Counseling Center
26 Main Street, Chatham, NJ / 973-635-6550