Why Do Siblings Fight?
Susie Caron © 2/13/16
Sibling rivalry is as old as time and will continue as long as human families exist. It can be the source of stress for parents and for the children. If this is a problem in your home, do you wonder if there is anything you can do to reduce fighting, and help siblings work together and enjoy family life? This article explains one, little known reason, for sibling rivalry and what you can do to keep it from getting out of hand.
There is a good reason that children fight around their parents. Every child living with one or more siblings, operates under the unconscious influence of survival of the fittest. This means each child works hard to get the most attention. The one who ‘wins’ (no matter how), instinctively feels they have obtained ‘favorite child status.’
‘Favorite child status’ is gained not necessarily by being good. It can also be won by being very naughty. Individual children may work on this by being nice and kind and helpful, or at the other extreme, by being rude and nasty, and bullying others. It’s something that a child ‘wins’ by getting a ‘Giant Share’ of your attention.
I’m not blaming the kids, or saying that they are aware of this. It’s just that each child wants to feel close to you. Every child wants to feel like he or she is the one you’d rescue first!
This drive is actually a survival skill, and in their DNA. It’s looks a lot like what you’d see in some pets. Watch kittens or puppies as they nurse, they scrabble and push each other away. The strongest gets first choice, the next gets second and so on. They naturally ‘fight’ to be the one closest to the mother’s face and that win’s most of her attention. It’s the same for children, they are trying to figure out how to get to be the closest to you (or in your face) the most.
As a result, your kids will struggle to get your attention any way that works. Each one will choose a different way. One may hang with you, being helpful and fun, another may fight with you or with siblings to get your attention the most often. Either way, the one who 'feels' like they get most of your attention wins.
Like most parents I’m sure that you really want your kids to love you, and each other and to get along. You’ve probably tried to tell them you love them all the same, equally, and perfectly. However, that rarely helps to reduce their fights with each other.
I know you get tired of their fighting, but if you want to stop it, you must stop noticing and getting involved. The key to reducing sibling rivalry, is to not interfere every time a struggle erupts. When you interfere, and try to get to the reasons, or solve their problems, you actually put gas on the fire, metaphorically speaking. In other words, by giving attention to their fighting, you actually encourage more fighting. I know you don’t want that.
If you really want most of the fighting to stop, you’ll want to do these three things:
If you’ve been getting involved and trying to sort out sibling arguments for a long time, changing this pattern could take a while and your due diligence and determination. However, when you stop interfering and choosing sides, and focus more on good behaviors, especially any time a sibling is kind or helpful to another, then you’ll see your children getting along more often. They’ll still have squabbles, that okay because people don’t always agree. That’s part of being human, and special and different and learning how to get along with each other.
In fact most siblings enjoy a bit of good hearted arguing and joshing, even into adulthood. You'll help them get there when you practice these skills.
If you liked this article you may also enjoy my podcast for parents. I release one knew episode each week.
Here’s a LINK for you to subscribe and listen to episodes of
Building Parents & Good Kids.
Thanks for reading. Remember to leave your thoughts about this in comments below.
Twee’ means you and me
Helping Siblings to Get Along
Susie E. Caron MA,
Author, Blogger, Podcaster,
Christian, Wife, & Mother, helps build parent-child relationships, 1 blog, book & podcast at a time.
Welcome! I recently retired from combined careers in teaching, psychotherapy, and parent coaching to spend more time writing.
When I'm not busy creating books or articles, you might find me looking for dark chocolate or riding my beautiful horse Apple in the woods and fields of Vermont.
These articles are for educational and self-help purposes only and are not intended as psychotherapy.
If you experience unusual symptoms or discomfort please see your medical or mental health practitioner.
No patent liability is assumed for use of the information contained. The author disclaims any responsibility for loss or risk for use or application of this material.
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Blog Reviews & Thank You!
July 13 at 7:17pm ·
Just wanted to say that I love your posts about the different ways to connect/relate/understand your child. It has given me a new approach towards understanding my daughter and allowing HER to tell me how she feels instead of me suggesting to her how she should feel. Thanks Susie!