, Salem, MA


February 28, 2014

When sibling rivalry dominates, parents can't referee

With the kids home from school during the many snow days, followed by the week of February vacation, sibling rivalry is at a peak in many families.

It’s the squabbles of sibling rivalry that may cause parents and caretakers to feel like they’re going to lose their minds and tempers. It’s the ongoing battles of really, really important things like whether the ball crossed a certain line or who has more points at any one time, or who is going first or who got a bigger piece of cake; the list can be endless, and parents often want to pull out someone’s hair, if not their own, before they decide what to do to stop the barrage of conflict.

The reality, like it or not, is that not only is sibling rivalry very typical in families with more than one child, it actually serves the purpose of teaching children through experience how to negotiate, share, and be successful in different roles; leader, follower, winner and loser. This life experience comes in handy when children are facing similar challenges in their lives outside of the home.

Parents struggle with how to manage the rivalry when all they really want is peace when their children play together. So, what can parents do?

There are different parenting styles. Some parents work hard to keep up with every sibling squabble by assuming a refereeing role over conflicts. If this is your parenting style, quit your day job now, because you’ll be working full time as referee. In contrast, other parents are permissive and tolerant regarding sibling rivalry. These parents adopt a “hands off, they’ll work it out” position.

The best, most effective parenting incorporates different parenting strategies to successfully manage typical sibling rivalry. Here are six essential components:

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