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How to Deal with Family Conflicts Among Siblings

by Shannon Philpott, studioD

Although sibling rivalry is common, when conflict disrupts the entire family, it’s time to get to the bottom of the problem. The Mayo Clinic notes that sibling rivalry and conflict can evolve due to age, similarities, competitive natures and personalities. From jealousy between younger siblings to squabbles among adult siblings, family conflict can escalate and destroy relationships. Confront the conflict head on to maintain a loving family dynamic.

Respect Needs

When siblings are in close contact with each other on a regular basis, there is bound to be teasing, fighting and tattling. As a parent, you can minimize the conflicts by recognizing and respecting each child’s unique needs. The Mayo Clinic recommends focusing on each child’s individual talents and interests to avoid conflict or potential disagreements. For example, instead of buying the same gifts for each child, pick out gifts that reflect each person's interests. If both children receive a bike, competition and conflict may ensue. Instead, tailor gifts to your daughter’s musical interests or your son’s hobbies or favorite sports.

Set Expectations

It’s unrealistic to envision a perfect family environment without any sibling disagreements, but setting expectations and ground rules can help decrease the risk of disagreements turning into full-blown arguments. Even with adult siblings, it’s important to outline acceptable and unacceptable behavior when interacting with one another. For example, discuss appropriate language to use in your home when communicating with siblings and enforce these expectations. When conflict arises, the Mayo Clinic encourages parents to stay out of the battle zone. Let your children attempt to settle their own differences and refrain from taking sides. Although younger children may need some help resolving disputes, make sure that you avoid taking sides and discipline individually and privately rather than publicly.

Be a Role Model

Children learn aggressive behavior and conflict management strategies from their parents, adults and role models. Model the behavior you want to see in your children by setting an example when you are in conflict with others. If your children witness you yelling at your own siblings, it’s likely they will mimic the behavior. The Mayo Clinic recommends having open discussions about the conflicts you have experienced with your own siblings and listening to your child’s concerns and frustrations with siblings. Acknowledge your children's feelings and give them a chance to vent, work together and find solutions to problems and disagreements that arise.

Encourage Cooperation

Comparing one child to another is a sure way to cause conflict among siblings. Phrases such as “Your sister gets good grades, why can’t you?” and “Why can’t you act more like your brother?” will only cause jealousy and conflict between siblings. Instead, avoid labels and let your child be herself, advises Kyla Boyse, R.N., of the University of Michigan’s Health System and Department of Psychiatry. Set up an environment that encourages cooperation rather than competition. When prompting siblings to complete tasks or chores, Boyse recommends against using competitive challenges against each other. For example, have them race the clock when cleaning or picking up toys, rather than race each other.

About the Author

Shannon Philpott has been a writer since 1999. She has experience as a newspaper reporter, magazine writer and online copywriter. Philpott has published articles in St. Louis metro newspapers, "Woman's World" magazine, "CollegeBound Teen" magazine and on e-commerce websites, and also teaches college journalism and English. She holds a Master of Arts in English from Southern Illinois University.

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