121: Sibling Stress: How to Handle Bickering, Fighting & More

Photo by Anna Mayer via Flickr

If you have more than one child, you have sibling stress.

Bickering! Fighting! Maybe even bullying.

Seeing — and hearing — our children torment each other is major source of stress and family conflict.

We wonder, Have I failed? Are my children doomed to become jerks? Will they EVER get along? Should I intervene? Or let them work it out on their own? 

Jen and Janet are here to tell you that sibling stress is NORMAL.

Your kids’ arguing and bickering does not mean that they hate one another — though it can certainly seem that way in the moment. But the reality is that sibling fights help children discover and learn limits, empathy and social behavior. Between brothers, fights can even promote bonding.

You don’t have to stand idly by, though, while your children scream, shout and throw things at one another. If someone is in immediate emotional or physical danger, intervene ASAP. And during periods of calm, there’s a lot you can do to encourage healthy sibling relationships. You can:

  • Explicitly discuss the importance of siblings
  • Outline your expectations, i.e., You must always ask before touching or using anything that belongs to your sibling
  • Avoid unnecessary meddling
  • Teach negotiation and compromise
  • Limit the amount of “stuff” in your home (the more material possessions kids have, the more they fight)
In this episode, Jen & Janet discuss:
  • Why moms, in particular, struggle with sibling fights
  • How sibling relationships change over the years (Yes, there is hope!)
  • Red-flag behavior (or, how to tell when you have to intervene)
  • How parents can encourage healthy sibling relationships
  • What to do about name-calling
  • “Family hate”
Links we mentioned (or should have) in Episode 121:

Fight! — classic BuildingBoys blog post (includes a super-cute picture of Jen’s two oldest boys when they were much younger)

Help! My Son Hates His Siblings! — Micro-course led by Janet. Work at your own pace in this self contained course.

Why You Need to Stop Focusing on Your Boys’ Bickering – BuildingBoys post

Do Your Boys Bicker? — YouTube video featuring Jen