From the day you become a parent, you begin to have questions. “Is my child growing normally?” “Am I feeding my child correctly?” “How can I foster their learning?” The questions persist and even become more complex with time. This series will help address many common parenting questions. 

Parenting and child development writer Amy Webb, Ph.D., will be your guide as we explore these questions asked by real parents who probably face many of the same struggles as you. Fellow parents submitted these questions via social media platforms. Although there is not usually one simple answer to individual parenting questions (every family is unique), we will use the latest research and expert advice to address these concerns.

As troublesome as it is, sibling conflict is a very common aspect of family life. However, physical aggression does not have to become part of the picture. Our parenting approach can help foster strong relationships between siblings.

In the role of parent, children often come to you with different stories of what happened during the conflict or altercation. In most situations, it’s most helpful to stay neutral and avoid taking the side of one sibling or another. Instead of fostering resentment between siblings or placing blame, try to find win-win solutions to the conflicts. If children are old enough to understand a concept like compromise, empower the children to come up with their own ideas for how to resolve the conflict. Give them the opportunity to try out one solution, and if it fails to work, move on to another possible solution. This is helpful because it encourages children to think about their own solutions (and perhaps consider their sibling’s point of view) rather than simply running to you to resolve the conflict.

It can also help to be proactive in preventing sibling conflict before it begins. For example, if you know that a certain toy or game tends to be the source of conflict, help the children establish rules for sharing the item or strategies to prevent conflict. Being proactive could also mean reminding your children of options they have if conflict arises. During a peaceful moment, remind your children how they can handle a conflict calmly by using skills like compromise, sharing, ignoring teasing, or, as a last resort, coming to a parent for help.

Another useful proactive strategy for dealing with sibling conflict is to role-play resolution tactics. Think of a possible conflict scenario and discuss with your children how they could handle it calmly, without physical aggression. Practice these scenarios together or even with their stuffed animals or toys to allow them some time to rehearse handling conflict in a calm way.

Lastly, remind children that they are on the same team; that you are all a family. Help them envision a time when they will all be adults and want to pave the path for a strong, positive relationship with one another. With a little help from you to build their interpersonal skills, siblings can have a more harmonious relationship.

The information provided on this site is NOT medical advice and is for informational purposes only. It is not intended to diagnose, provide medical or behavioral advice, treat, prevent, or cure any disease, condition, or behavior. You should consult with a qualified healthcare professional regarding your child’s development to make a medical diagnosis, determine a treatment for a medical condition, or obtain other related advice.

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