Last week, Parenting Playbook offered a few suggestions about how parents can help children resolve the feelings, thoughts, and behaviors that are commonly associated with the catchphrase “sibling rivalry.” This week, Parenting Playbook will describe some of the factors that influence how often and why your kids and their friends might clash.
First, kids have evolving needs, anxieties, and identities that affect how they relate to one another. These differences can and do affect how siblings and friends squabble. Toddlers, for example, are just learning that they can affect their world and assert their will, and they practice what they are learning! It is then no wonder that toddlers are protective of their toys and the things they call “mine!” Children of school age are at a different developmental level. They are often concerned with fairness and equality. It may be more difficult for a school-age child to understand why siblings or friends of other ages are treated differently and/or preferentially. Teenagers are at the life stage of developing a sense of individuality and independence, so they may resent being expected to do chores around the house, “babysitting” siblings, or spending time with the family. When you consider all these differences, and the challenges of growing up, it is no wonder that a quarrel may ensue from time to time.
Arguments may also bubble to the surface because of the individual temperaments of the children involved. We all have a unique personality that includes moods, disposition, and flexibility. So, if one of your children happens to be easygoing and another is a charge-ahead kind of kid, they may disagree on occasion.
A third factor that can affect the frequency of a squabble has to do with siblings who are sick or may have special needs. If one child is requiring more attention because of illness or other issues, siblings and friends may view this as unfair. Siblings and friends of sick children will sometimes act out to get attention, or they may act out from fear of what they don’t understand.
The positive side of sibling rivalry is this: as kids learn how to cope with disputes, they learn lessons that will serve them well for life. Kids need to learn to value another person’s opinion and perspective, and resolving the clashes of sibling rivalry offer opportunities to learn compromise and negotiation.
Help your children learn to find a win-win situation as they navigate disagreements.