Coping with Sibling Fighting
I’m an only child, so two things I worried about while pregnant with my second baby were:
1) Will I love this baby girl as much as I love my son?
2) How will I stop them from fighting all the time?
Now, the first question may seem crazy – lots of families have more than one kid. But, I’m an only child, and I have no experience with siblings. I didn’t want to have a favorite kid or have my first kid suffer because he only got half my love. A couple months after having my daughter, I could confidently say I felt like my capacity to love doubled instead of divided in half (now x 3 because I have three children). I tell you this because sometimes the answers to our questions come in a different way than we expect.
The second question I still struggle with, but now I try to approach differently. I don’t try to stop the fighting, I try to help them ‘fight’ well. Let me explain.
One of our values in family ministries here at Parker Hill is Imagine The End. This means that in parenting, we don’t respond with what is easiest or a convenient ‘right now’ approach, but rather, we respond in terms of what we want at the end of our parenting journey.
I want to raise adults that can manage conflict, be assertive and stand up for themselves, deal with power struggles, negotiate and compromise, and as a Christian parent – I want kids that love God and love people. To me, this means stepping into the conversation when it becomes unkind and unsafe – to teach both parties how to articulate what they want and what they need. Fighting is inevitable – and conflict is healthy.
In the beginning, I worried that because of sibling fighting, my children might:
· Get physically or emotionally hurt
· Never stop fighting
· Become bullies
· Develop poor relationship skills that will carry into adulthood
· Lack empathy
Sometimes they do get hurt, and often it does feel like they will never stop fighting. Somedays I tell my husband I feel like I am a referee with name calling, blaming, lying, tattling, hitting, or even something as simple as “He’s looking at me.” It can be exhausting and infuriating. I mean, why can’t they just get along?
To help me process this, I remind myself the possible “why” behind the fighting. Does she want to get attention or to feel powerful? Is she just bored or wanting to connect with her brother? Is she needing physical connection or trying to be the “favorite” kid? If I can answer the ‘why’, I am more likely to respond in a teachable way as opposed to just getting it to stop.
I am in between the preschool and elementary stage of parenting, meaning I have kids 7 years old and under. As my kids get older, my hope is that they develop skills to cooperate well, articulate and manage their emotions, and communicate effectively. But right now, they are still in the beginning stages of those skills. So, I still intervene frequently.
To keep it simple, I try to prioritize these three things when I step into a heated conflict:
- Who is hurt and how are they hurt
- Process the conflict and choose skills to approach it differently next time
- Forgive each other and reconnect the relationship
What are some ways that you resolve conflict in your family?