Resolving Conflict
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Oh Good, the Kids Are Fighting Again
February  2023 

Sibling rivalry is the jealousy and competition that results in fighting between children in a family. It is a concern for almost all parents of two or more kids. It is a natural aspect of growing up in a family and usually continues throughout childhood. 

While it can be a source of stress and tension it can also be an opportunity for children to learn skills such as compromise, communication and problem-solving.
There is no way to eliminate the fighting forever, but there are ways to minimize conflict and to maximize productive resolution. In this Snapshot we will share some of the common causes of sibling rivalry, as well as strategies that parents can use to manage and reduce it.

Why Do My Kids Fight?
Weary parents often wonder: Why do kids fight? It makes no sense to adults! Actually, it is interesting to think about the sibling fighting from your children‘s perspective. 

Kids don’t fight just because one toy is better or one piece of cake is bigger. Instead, the majority of fights arise due to underlying causes. 
These include jealousy, competition for attention from parents or resources, feelings of insecurity, and differences in personality or values. Siblings may also fight as a way to assert their independence or establish their own identity. Additionally, siblings may fight as a result of stress or changes within the family, such as the birth of a new sibling or a parents' divorce. 
Children may also fight to:
  • feel powerful
  • get a break from boredom. Annoying a sibling may seem more exciting than anything else going on
  • connect with their sibling
  • get physical contact
  • become the ‘favored one’ in their parents’ eyes by making their sibling look bad
Although the fighting is stressful, children actually learn important life skills through arguing with their siblings. They can learn to:
  • deal with power struggles
  • manage conflict and resolve differences
  • be assertive and to stand up for their position
  • negotiate and compromise
  • see another person’s point of view
Strategies to Minimize the Rivarly
As stated earlier, sibling rivalry is the jealousy and competition between children in a family.  Following are a few things you can do to reduce the overall competition between your children. 
Avoid labels. When it comes to children, labels can dramatically increase the competition between them. Labelling children as "the smart one" or "the athletic one" creates a perception of unequal value or worth within the sibling relationship. This can lead to feelings of jealousy or resentment and sets up a dynamic of competition and comparison rather than one of support and cooperation.  

The alternative is to cheer on positive attributes, such as teamwork, persistence, and kindness. Siblings can then root for each other instead of competing for their parents’ approval.
Arrange for Attention. Spending one-on-one time with each child can help reduce sibling rivalry. When children feel like they are getting the same amount of their parent's attention, they may be less likely to compete with each other for it.

To satisfy your child's need for attention, you can make a plan to give each child at least 10 minutes of kid-centered, intentional attention daily, if possible. Intentional means no distractions, no phone, no TV, no quick emails. It is critical you are fully present for your time with them.
Kid-centered means your child is in control of the 10 minutes, they decide what the activity will be. Whatever the child chooses, you honour. As long as it is safe and can be reasonably done in the time allotted.
  • A tea party?
  • Lego building?
  • Playing catch?
  • Sidewalk drawing with chalk?
  • Listening to their favorite music? 
When it’s finished, you could say something like, “I sure enjoyed our special time today! I can’t wait to do it again tomorrow!”
Have regular family meetings. Gather the family and give everybody an equal opportunity to voice concerns or frustrations they may have. It’s also a good time to establish or re-visit house rules that family members have agreed to follow. These should hang in a common space to remind everyone of their commitment to being a happy, healthy family.
Should I Step In or Let Them Fight it Out?
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You may hear, “Oh, they‘ll just grow out of it!” Both experience and research have shown that without parental guidance, siblings with combative relationships are more likely to grow into adults with combative relationships. It is important for parents to create a safe and healthy environment for their children, and to teach them how to resolve conflicts in a constructive way.
Parents do not need to intervene every time their children bicker. However when siblings are fighting, parents can intervene by assessing the situation to determine if anyone is in danger, if so, it is important to step in immediately to de-escalate the situation. If the situation is not dangerous, parents can intervene by handling disagreements in a positive way using the suggestions below.
Listen. During a fight, most children are frustrated and emotional. Listen to your children and respect their feelings. They will be more likely to cooperate if they feel they are being heard and their feelings are being validated. Let each child have the opportunity to talk without interruption.

Avoid taking sides. You might think you heard or saw what started the argument, but don’t place judgment on either party. 

Controlling their temper: Kids aren’t always ready to discuss their feelings immediately after a fight, so teach them coping skills to diffuse the situation until they are ready to talk such as walk away, count to 10, take deep breaths, etc..

Give children problem-solving tools. Use conflict as an opportunity to provide your children with tools for solving future problems. Once everyone has calmed down you can teach conflict resolution skills by using role-play. 
Here are a few scenarios you can role play:

Taking turns: Give children the words to use (“May I please play with…”) and also give them language for responding (“I’m not quite finished playing with it, but I’ll let you know when I’m finished.”)

Using “I feel” statements: It’s important children know it’s OK to have big feelings, but there are appropriate ways to express them. Teach them the language to use when they are frustrated (“I feel mad when Sam doesn’t let me play with the ipad” or “I feel hurt when Alison teases me…”)

Once you have taught your children some skills to manage conflict you can support them to use the skills. Ask them to come up with some solutions together. If no one is able to come up with a workable resolution, suggest a few yourself, and help them reach an agreement.
Make discipline private. If a fight between siblings results in the need for consequences, avoid making the conversation public. This can shame a child in front of their siblings, creating greater animosity between them. 
Relationships with siblings can have a powerful impact upon the young years, producing intense feelings, positive or negative; these same feelings can persist into our adult relationships with siblings. This why it is so important to equip children with the attitudes and skills  they need not only to manage their sibling relationships, but all of their caring relationships now and in the future.

Pink Shirt Day Feb 22, 2023

This year we are introducing the concept of being kind to yourself. Kindness to ourselves is kindness to others. As our own well-being increases, we are more able and likely to be patient, supportive, forgiving, and loving.

Practicing kindness towards yourself is often...

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The content provided through the Snapshots is for information purposes only. The Snapshots include information that is general in nature and cannot address the many individual child rearing challenges parents and caregivers may experience. Therefore it is the readers‘ responsibility to determine the suitability of the information for their specific needs.

Resources and Sources
This book is written from the point of view of a facilitator of weekly parenting workshops. Each chapter reads like a transcript of one week’s session. You’ll read about different parenting challenges such as jealously, labeling and comparing amongst children. Each chapter is filled with anecdotes and great examples. The chapters each end with tips and guidelines and select stories from parents of their successes implementing them.

Click here for a video summary of the book
Click here for the Cliff's Notes on the book

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