Being a parent involves a variety of tasks, like providing meals, laundry, coordinating and executing schedules, and more. With our plates full as it is, being a referee between siblings is a job no one wants to add.
But St. Petersburg child therapist Juli Hindsley reassures that sibling rivalry is a healthy part of development. “Sibling dynamics establish the foundations of conflict resolution and frustration tolerance with others from early on. Siblings that ‘fight constantly’ growing up do not show any statistical difference in self-reports of positive sibling relationships in young adulthood or beyond.”
Instead of serving as a referee, Hindsley suggests look at yourself as an unbiased commentator. You are not picking a side; however, your role is to remain neutral and narrate what is going on for each sibling. The skills children are practicing in these heated moments are important and helpful, even if it is hard to experience as a parent.
“In high-conflict sibling relationship, it might be best to have a set ‘talk time’ for siblings and families,” the St. Petersburg child therapist says. “Having an established time to talk about conflicts – outside of the heated moments – gives everyone an opportunity to apologize and calm down.”
Unless the arguments are physical, she adds that the best thing to do is to stay out of as many arguments as possible. If the argument turns physical, the St. Petersburg child therapist recommends removing the child being hit and focusing attention there, rather than the child committing the act. Hindsley suggests avoiding a big reaction, which inadvertently gives attention to unwanted behaviors.
If you have questions or are interested in learning more about St. Petersburg children’s counseling services, visit Child & Family Therapy Center’s contact page.