One of the concerns often talked about among growing families, that is those growing beyond a first or only child, is the concern of how their children will get along growing up. This is not just a concern for those with newborns, but also among families adopting and fostering children, and individuals who are single parents coming together to form a blended multi-child household.
Regardless of the situation, it is important when you are dealing with children to involve a counselor who will be able to provide some ground rules or a plan, help facilitate concerns or disagreements in an unbiased forum, and be a source of support for unseen or specific challenges.
Why do siblings fight?
Need for Expression
The biggest question to examine is why do siblings or children fight? Children often lack the words or expressions to explain how they are thinking or feeling regarding complex subjects such as the birth of a new child, a marriage, or adoption.
We all laugh when we hear stories of parents bringing home a newborn and the older sibling asking when they are taking it back. As simple and concrete as some of these circumstances feel for adults, children just don’t interpret them in the same way, verbally or physically.
Usually, when a child is acting out toward another child, the cause of the action has already been seeded. The perceived “problem or experience” has already been in place, the children are just looking for a way to express what they are feeling or experiencing. When a sibling is present, who “speaks” the same language, they often become an easy target for an attack.
Children can express their frustrations through words or actions, or a combination of both; younger children don’t usually show a preference for one over another, they pick one that gets them the attention.
Lack of Connection
Not being able to fully express what they are feeling or thinking is the number one reason for sibling rivalry.
The communication is not always present between two or more children arguing. Arguing usually stems from interactions or lack of communication and relationships with adults or parents. These relationships become even more complex when dealing with blended families and those fostering or adopting because the amount of adult involvement increases.
Children may fight over the misperception of time given between siblings, which is leading to jealousy and feelings of low self-worth and rejection. The holidays can always be a difficult period for blended families where some children receive more material items than others, resulting in children feeling hurt or forgotten.
Parents who foster or adopt children with special needs, who may require more time and energy, may, unintentionally, lead to other children feeling left out or neglected. While they may show signs of dissatisfaction, children often seek revenge or retribution on those they perceive as the change to their own circumstances.
How to stop siblings from fighting?
Children create internal dialogs which lead to disproportionate and negative actions, such as, “Perhaps I would get more time with dad if he didn’t have my stepsister to spend time with?”
The goal of the child is to get what they are feeling deficient in; love, attention, reward, recognition, and even material items. Children learn very quickly that negative behavior can get those needs fulfilled the quickest, even if temporary. Parents need to take the time to examine why siblings are really fighting, what are they lacking, and why do they feel this way?
Parents often overlook this because of the fear of being complicit, fear of failing as a parent, or because their time is so consumed that they have little energy to invest in what it feels like more problems.
It is important to correct these behaviors as soon as possible. Again, this is where the role of a professional counselor is crucial. Children learn to hurt others, but by nature don’t really want to hurt anyone, especially their parents, the ones they want the love and attention from; who are often the reason for their poor behavior.
A counselor can be that person whom they don’t have to be afraid of, someone who can help them find the words, expressions, and behavior in positive ways and be a bridge to communicating with their parents and siblings when they are having problems they can’t explain, getting to the very root of the problem.
Creating a Plan and Follow-Through
A counselor can also help younger children, and especially teens, find new ways of expressing frustration, disappointment, and anger when it comes to siblings and other children.
Situations that go uncontrolled at home often develop into behaviors that are depicted in the school. Children will apply the same bad behavior in other environments in hope of resolving their internal conflict. School counselors can also be helpful in these circumstances, but again, if the problems are more complex or not easily resolved, it is best for the family to seek professional counseling.
A counselor will help set up a plan for the children to find ways to express themselves without launching an attack on another family member or kid on the playground. They will also provide support for the siblings and parents, reevaluating progress, and making suggestions depending on the changes experienced.
If you need more information about why are siblings fighting and how to deal with sibling rivalry, get in touch with Dr. Marsha Ferrick, today!