The Expert Parent on sibling rivalry
Q: My two young children are constantly arguing. Is this normal? How can I help them deal with sibling rivalry so life isn't always an argument?
A: Be reassured that your children are perfectly normal. You'd probably worry if they didn't ever fight.
Most parents soon come to realize that sibling rivalry is a natural and inevitable part of life with children. The only surefire way to avoid it is to have an only child. Spending so much time together can not only bond brothers and sisters, it can also cause the usual conflicts over toys and TV time, as well as competition for their parents' love and attention.
The good news is that it doesn't have to turn your home into a constant battlefield. "Sibling rivalry can be a headache, or an opportunity to teach children the life skills they'll need in all their relationships," says Adele Faber, coauthor of the best-selling "Siblings Without Rivalry" (Avon). Daily dealings with a sibling and the inevitable squabbles help children learn how to negotiate, compromise, respect others and how to be a good friend, she says.
Don't take sides when your children are having a fight, Faber says. Instead, "State, 'Wow! We have a real problem here. Sally, you're angry because Bobby took your car. Bobby, you really wanted that car.' Acknowledging their feelings cools them down immediately," she says. "Then ask, 'What can you two do to work it out? Think it over and let me know what you come up with.'"
Faber's key advice: "Learn to stay out of normal bickering...as long as no one is getting physically or verbally hurt. You'd be amazed how kids can work things out themselves when given the chance." Here are some books you can read for solutions to everyday sibling scenarios so you help smooth the way to family harmony and those you can read with your children to help them work out some of their issues or just to let them know they're not alone in their feelings.