Many parents report their kids fighting with each other as one of the most stressful aspects of parenting and home life…
Hearing your kids argue can be incredibly stressful and tiring. And constantly having to play mediator and break up arguments is hardly how any parent wants to spend their time.
But the truth is, in most cases, sibling fighting isn’t actually something to be worried about. In fact, recent research has shown that siblings who fight more often end up close in later years because the fact that they are willing to stick out difficult interactions in order to keep playing together, shows a high level of interest in the relationship. Much better than siblings who show little interest in each other and tend to grow up with distant relationships.
But that doesn’t make the fighting any less stressful.
Often, I see that when parents have siblings who fight a lot, the automatic response is to separate the kids. Easier for everyone, right?
Well, it might seem that way in the short term but let’s go back to the point about how siblings who have low levels of interest in each other tend to grow up distant…
I know that dealing with your kids fighting is far from fun and can be incredibly stressful, BUT I also know that most parents feel highly invested in raising kids who are close with their siblings. What is better than a built in best friend/support system? Thats the potential when you raise your kids to be close.
And that phrase is key.
How close your kids end up has almost NOTHING to do with age difference, gender, or even interests. It’s about how you raise them.
I grew up in a family with five kids spread out over 20 years. Meaning my oldest sister is 41 and my brother, the youngest, is 21. And we are all incredibly close, AND incredibly different.
When we talk about our relationships with each other, we almost all attribute our closeness to the way our parents raised us, and specifically, how they dealt with conflict between us.
First of all, we were never raised to believe that age difference was a good reason to be allowed to exclude one another or be disinterested in each other. We were expected to prioritize time with siblings equally (if not above) time with friends. And even when our friends were over, we were expected to include each other in whatever activities we chose.
But more importantly, when we fought (and like all siblings, we did plenty of bickering and arguing), our parents handled it in a very unique way. Not only were we never separated after having an argument but we were actually forced to stay together and talk, hug, or spend time together doing some activity until we could find a solution and work things out.
Did we like the approach as kids? Definitely not.
I was naturally more introverted and when upset, wanted nothing more than to retreat to my room and be alone until I could calm down.
But the approach worked.
My siblings and I learned from a young age that if we had an issue, we would have to sit together and figure it out. Maybe not immediately. Maybe with no concrete solution. But if nothing else, we always hugged and said, “I love you” before going to bed at night. And that’s why, to this day, my siblings are my best friends and my strongest support system.
The moments of mediation and watching us squabble it out may have been harder on our parents, but in those moments we formed more than just a forced sibling relationship. We formed friendships that have lasted a lifetime and skills for working through conflict in relationships across the board.
So next time your kids fight…take a deep breath, then either sit them down somewhere to talk it out, or give them an activity to do together like cleaning up the play room or making up a silly dance together.
More connection brings more connection. Separation just pushes us further apart.
Here’s to close families!