For most of us, when we have our second child, we are grateful that we are giving our first child a sibling — a confidant; someone he or she will be able to travel through life with, even when we are gone; a best friend for life. We imagine total bliss, holding hands, and our children thanking us for the gift we’ve given them.
Then, too quickly, reality hits. Our beautiful, darling child pinches the new baby. A few years later, “Mom, she’s hitting me,” or shrieks from the backseat of the car, “Dad, he’s touching me!” or, the screams of, “I hate you!”
Once we realize that they will not always be grateful for the gift we believe that we’ve given them, what do we do? How do we become comfortable with the relationship they have and how do we help them navigate the sometimes turbulent waters of siblinghood?
When Siblings Fight
by Inbal Kashtan
My two children play together beautifully much of the time but they also fight frequently, especially when we’re at home. Sometimes the constant bickering drives me nuts. I go back and forth between letting them work it out themselves and intervening. They yell at each other a lot and sometimes hurt each other intentionally. How can I help them learn better ways of resolving their differences?
Signed, Frustrated mother of two
Dear Frustrated Mother of Two,
Before you approach helping your children, I would suggest that you ask yourself what about their fighting is “driving you nuts.” Are you physically uncomfortable with the level of noise? Do you need more peace and quiet? Do you feel frustrated because you want some peace of mind as you go about your life in the house? Maybe you’re concerned for your children’s safety, or feel discouraged about the possibility that they will grow to live together more peacefully? Are you also confused about how to help them in these situations? There may be other feelings and needs to explore. The more you give yourself room for connecting with yourself, the clearer you will get about what strategies are likely to meet your needs. You may notice that, depending on what your needs are, your strategies may vary considerably.
Gaining inner clarity about your feelings and needs is likely to open your heart when you actually approach your children to talk about this situation. It will also enhance your ability to express yourself to them without blame or anger, dramatically increasing the likelihood that they could hear you and dialogue with you about both their needs and yours.