PARENT EDUCATION: Sanity Savers for Surviving Sibling Conflict

By Joan Wolf Schenker, M.Ed.

“For heaven’s sake, stop that fighting. You’re driving me crazy,” Mother yelled from another room. “Well, Gail won’t let me play with the iPad, Keith yelled back. “My games not over, I’ll lose my level,” Gail answered stormily. With a sigh, Mother wearily went into the room to settle the fight.Sibling Conflict over iPad

The autocratic parent storms in angrily, takes the iPad and yells, “Stop it. Nobody’s going to play with it!” The message becomes – you can’t solve your own problems, an adult must take care of you.  The permissive parent runs to the rescue.  “Come on, kids. Can’t we all get along?” No direction is given on how kids can solve their own conflicts.

Both autocratic and permissive parents give the unspoken message, “You need me to resolve your conflicts.” Let us look at one very proactive parent approach to this conflict:

  • Slow Steps – The slower you walk and the quieter you are, the better the chances that the conflict will be over before you get there. (One exception: If one of the kids is physically hurting the other, get there as fast as you can and calmly take the iPad).

  • Stay Silent – and then say, “You are both fighting. You may have the iPad back as soon as you have a plan. Now, what do you need?” (a plan).

  • Sit and Simmer – As children sit down and cool off (separate seats if necessary), one of these three things will happen:

  1. They will decide to share (iPad in this case, also could be a toy, snack, etc.),

  2. They will split up and find something else to do,

  3. They will settle on a plan that they both agree to.

The above example is one proactive approach where the parent has provided the structure and environment necessary for kids to solve their own problems. There are many other ways to survive these sibling wars. You may wish to try one of these Sanity Savers at home:

  • Stay out of it if you can.

  • Set an example: resolving your own conflicts fairly.

  • Allow your kids to share feelings at a family meeting.

  • Use your sense of humor (I once arrested my kids for disorderly conduct).

  • Separate them.

  • Schedule time for the children to get a break from one another.

Would you like help strengthening your parenting skills or connecting with your children? Family counseling is available. Call 412-366-1300 to learn more and schedule an appointment.  Learn more about upcoming parenting skill workshops hosted at various locations here.