Sibling Squabbles – Teachable Moments Worth the Effort

May 29, 2012, Parenting Success Network

Our family is sitting down for a delicious Memorial Day barbeque feast with all of the fixings and something is just not right. The food looks great, smells yummy, and tastes delicious but both my husband and I are finding it difficult to enjoy our meal. Why, you ask? Well, our two oldest children are having a very difficult time tolerating each other at the dinner table.

“Scoot over!”, my eldest commands.

“Why should I?”, my middle child retorts.

“Mom! He will not scoot over and give me more room to eat.”, complains my eldest urgently.

“I am as far over over as I can be.”, replies my 8-year-old. “You don’t need any more space!”

In a situation such as this, my husband and I feel willing to do almost anything to get some resolution in order to enjoy our meal (we worked hard preparing it and were ready to reap the mouth-watering rewards). However, we both know better. This is what many parent educators would call a “teachable moment”- a time to use the current circumstances as a springboard for teaching our children how to compromise and communicate effectively in order to solve their differences, no matter how petty they may seem to us at the time.

First, it is best to understand the causes of sibling rivalry. Then we can begin to work on more specific ways to help our children resolve their conflicts appropriately and effectively. We must also consider the ages and developmental stages that our children are in at the time. The younger the child, the more they will need our help and coaching when dealing with sibling conflict. Once we begin this process, as our children mature and use the skills we are teaching them they will gain the specific conflict-resolution skills  necessary to successfully resolve sibling conflicts with less help from us.  Additionally, these skills will help our children successfully navigate adult interpersonal conflict they will encounter in the future. In other words, if we put the energy into our parenting efforts now it has benefits (for us as well as our children) later on.

University of Michigan Health System, has posted a wonderful article titled, Sibling Rivalry. It is packed with useful information on understanding the causes of sibling rivalry and the things parents can do to help our children resolve their differences effectively.

Reading the article has put our family on the path to stress-free family dinners that everyone can enjoy.