Dealing with Sibling Squabbles.
The saying “Never a dull moment” appropriately describes what my house was like, when raising my twin boys. There was always something going on, like lots of laughter and healthy competition. There were also the arguments and fighting, with everyone trying to make their point and get their voice heard. Most of the time, there was nothing serious but we had a few serious issues like when one twin threw a pen at the other one and narrowly missed the intended target, but instead, broke my computer screen. In my exasperation, I bought them T shirts which said, “It’s all fun and games till someone loses an eye.”
A friend of mine, with older siblings “reassured” me that the fighting would continue for a while and to just relax and get over it. I was horrified.
So what if they fight?
1. Fighting prepares your teens for the real world.
Let me be clear, I don’t mean physical fighting and violence, I’m talking about normal kids and teens bickering and arguing etc. As much as I could have done without all the arguments, I know that it actually does teach teens how to prepare for what they will encounter in life. They literally learn their negotiation skills, and learn how not to sweat the small stuff. They also learn how to stand up for themselves and how to become assertive. Where else will they learn negotiation skills and compromise?
2. Seek help for excessive uncontrolled anger and fighting.
There are times, when fighting and arguing goes beyond the normal sibling interaction and banter. If your teens are violent, breaking windows and being abusive, and you can’t control it, then it may be time to get expert help. Take this seriously. This is not normal. Speak to a counsellor or psychologist and find out why your teen is so angry. Deal with this before they grow up and become angry or abusive adults.
3. Know what your teens are watching.
Children in general are very impressionable and sometimes have a hard time separating reality from fantasy. In recent times, some teens have attempted to kill other teens because of a character from a TV show telling them to kill other people. Kids sometimes don’t realize that death is final and that people don’t wake up after being shot at, like they do in the movies. It’s prudent to decrease the exposure of tweens and younger children to excessive violence. With repeated exposure, the violence ceases to shock them and they may think it is reality. Even for older teens, who have a sense of invincibility, it’s wise to discourage exposure to excessive violence, which could spill over into their relationships. At the very least, talk to them and let them realize that violence is not acceptable behavior
4. Address Sibling Rivalry
Teens sometimes fight because they perceive how parents interact with other siblings, and they feel the other siblings are more special or that they are being treated unfairly. My children constantly asked me if I loved them all equally, and my answer was always a resounding yes. The truth is parents do relate differently with each child, because each child is different and has their own uniqueness. A guest speaker on Daystar television channel (unfortunately I didn’t get her name) explained it best when she said. God does not love us the same, He loves us uniquely, because we are all created differently. This holds true for parents as well. We do love our children uniquely. We love and appreciate the challenge of our strong willed teens. We appreciate the support of our shy, but very loving and supportive child and we definitely enjoy the laughter we share with our humor filled and sometimes naughty children. Seriously though, talk to your children and find out why they feel unloved or treated unfairly, and reassure them that they are indeed very special and truly loved.
5. Teach them the gift of Forgiveness
Unfortunately, sometimes light hearted banter can lead to heated arguments, which leave people really hurt. Teens and other family members for that matter may tend to hold grudges. Teach them from early on in life to say “I’m sorry”, with sincerity, if they are in the wrong. This will go a long way towards healing relationships. Sometimes pride gets in the way and families fall apart because of a simple misunderstanding. Life is too short, to spend it holding grudges and missing out on the love and companionship and support of family. Teach teens that anger and unforgiveness hurts them more than it does the other person. As Lewis B Smedes said, “To forgive is to set a prisoner free, and to discover that prisoner is you.
So what if they fight? They still love each other anyway. Normal sibling interaction will have its fair share of disagreements and misunderstanding. But always remember, that normal families communicate, and they don’t always have to agree with each other. “Fighting” amongst siblings teaches them negotiation skills, assertiveness, and humility. They learn to let things go and not sweat the small stuff, and most importantly they learn to forgive. Robert Muller (United Nations) said, “To forgive is the highest most beautiful form of love. In return you will receive untold peace and happiness.”
Photo credit: CenterForParentingEducation.org