What Kids Wish Their Parents Knew About Sibling Rivalry

Stephanie is a writing intern for Radical Parenting. She is a high school sophomore residing in New Jersey with hopes of further developing her writing career.

She took her shirt. He embarrassed him in front of his friends. Simple little actions like these can set off brothers and sisters just like that. You know what I’m talking about – the pouting, the eye-rolling, the insults, the blaming, the (hopefully not!) kicking and screaming…

Then there comes a point in time during our raucous fighting where you, the parent, feel the need to step in and act as a referee. And don’t get me wrong – that’s perfectly fine. But sometimes in trying to resolve the situation, parents are more like fuel to the flames than fair judges. Parents, here are five things we wish you did more when resolving sibling rivalry:

  1. Be Neutral

Try not to take sides, unless you’re rooting for the “home team” – that being both of us. I know you want to defend the innocent younger daughter or the more responsible older son, but we totally know when you’re doing it and it drives us crazy! The jealousy it causes will only make us resent each other more, anyway. Be fair to both parties as best as you can.

  1. Hear Both Sides of the Story

Let us explain ourselves, one at a time, with no interruptions. Even if we’re loud. or obnoxious. Or bawling with smudged mascara rolling down our cheeks. Talking about the issue in a civilized manner may make it easier for everyone to find a happy solution. It also lets us get all of our frustration out, which will hopefully prevent any more arguing or pent-up feelings after the fact.

  1. Avoid the 4-Hour Lecture

When referees make a call during a game, they usually take about five seconds explaining it to the crowd. Any longer and they’ll be cut off by boos and jeers or overwhelming applause. Your kids are the same way. You can tell us how you feel about Stacy punching Eric in the face for listening in on her phone call with her boyfriend, but please don’t make it any more complicated than it needs to be. Our attention spans can be pretty short when we’re infuriated, so try to keep the lecture under four hours – please.

  1. Mind Your Adjectives

Being a fair referee also means using fair terminology. None of us or our point of views are “stupid, idiotic, selfish, unworthy, or manipulative”, so don’t openly tell us that they are. Even if you secretly think so, using words like this can really take a hit at our egos. Proceed with caution.

  1. Don’t Get Involved

We usually want you to get involved whether we admit it or not, so you can hear our side and hopefully tell us we’re right and banish our sibling away to their room for the next three years. But we don’t always need you to interfere. If we’re arguing over who gets to use the computer tonight, you don’t necessarily have to step in and sit down with us to discuss the importance of sharing. Let us figure it out ourselves. It teaches us to stand up for ourselves and settle a dispute like an adult – things we’ll definitely need later on in life.

Remembering guidelines like these may make your life and your kids’ lives at home a lot easier – but hey, everyone’s family is different. Just remember not to let the stress of sibling rivalry overwhelm you. In the end, as long as you’re supporting us, loving us, and giving us air to breathe, I’d say with confidence that we’re supporting you right back.

And that’s something no siblings would disagree with.

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