by Michael Grose

Stop sibling conflict

These usually arise over low-level issues such as space, possessions and fairness. It’s enough to send most parents around the twist.

According to a recent US study, sibling fights teach children important conflict resolution skills and parents who stop their children from arguing may well be depriving them of important learning opportunities.

The test for strong families is more about the willingness for kids to pull together when the chips are down, rather than the frequency of the squabbling. Healthy families know how to fight well.

When parents take an active approach to helping their children resolve their fights, they are teaching them a valuable life skill as well as reducing the incidence of fighting over the long term.

Here are some practical strategies to use:

Model good conflict resolution skills

Show your child better ways of sorting out problems by talking things through with your partner, compromising and apologising when you’ve said something upsetting to your partner or your children.

Help to manage their emotions

Usually someone’s feelings get hurt when siblings argue so make sure you recognise their emotions without taking sides. This focus on feelings helps kids develop emotional literacy and promotes empathy in siblings as well.

Monitor sibling relationships

Keep your antenna up for the signs of discord within sibling relationships. You need to be ready to intervene and act as a safety net when one child continually appears on the wrong end of a power imbalance.

Mentor them to sort out disputes

Children need the chance to sort their conflict out themselves, but sometimes they need a little coaching. Rather than trying to sort out who started an argument, focus on possible solutions, provide suggestions such as taking turns, giving way, bargaining, swapping or even walking away.

Encourage them to make up

Children often get over disputes far quicker than adults do. However, there are times when you need to encourage a child to mend bridges with an aggrieved sibling by admitting they were wrong and apologising. This type of restoration means taking responsibility for one’s own behaviour and is a sign of growing maturity.

Conflict and siblings tend to go together. While sibling squabbles can be annoying, they also offer parents great opportunities to help their children to handle conflict effectively, which is a great life skill.


Brought to you by Brighton Grammar School

Michael Grose is one of Australia’s leading parenting educators and is founder of Parenting Ideas. This article is about


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