By Alexa Joy Sherman
It’s a fact of life: Even in the happiest families, sibling squabbles will sometimes arise. While fostering sibling cooperation and reducing sibling jealousy can often help minimize conflict overall, occasionally, toddlers will still fight, and parents have to intervene and assist. Here’s the smart way to end a sibling fight.
Your first rule of thumb to end a sibling fight: Never take sides or play the blame-game, asking questions like “Who started it?” Instead, ask unbiased questions about what happened. “Then, take the time to help them discuss the problem, brainstorm solutions and try to work things out,” advises advises Lesia Oesterreich, adjunct assistant professor of human development and family studies at Iowa State University in Ames. “Show your children how to be patient with each other by talking in a calm voice, giving clear directions and avoiding angry comments.”
For very young children, you may need to teach them how to handle their anger by walking away from the situation, counting to 10, going to hug a stuffed animal or asking an adult for help, Oesterreich adds. Yes, it’s a lot of work to end a little sibling fight—but well worth it both now and in the long run. “The time you invest early on will save a great deal of time years later because they will become so good at it, they will be able to solve most problems themselves,” Oesterreich says.