Siblings fighting with each other is a story as old as time; however, since the beginning of time sibling fights have driven parents crazy! How do you reduce sibling conflicts and preserve your own sanity? It may not be simple, but here is a process to try.
First, identify the precursors to sibling conflict. Does arguing always start before dinner? Does it start a bedtime, when both kids want the same attention from you? Does it start in the car?
Second, think about what the arguments are about- not just the words, but the meaning behind the words. Your child who hits her sister and claims “you love my sister more” may be trying to say she wants more of your time and energy. The child who fights before dinner might be really saying “I’m hungry and waiting is hard.”
Third, address the deeper meaning of the behavior. If your child is competing with a sibling, set aside time to spend with each child, one-on-one. It does not have to be all day- just 5 minutes of focused parental attention helps. If your child is always fighting before dinner, put out an “appetizer” (carrot sticks or some other veggie works well) for your kids to eat while they wait. If you think it is the wait and not hunger, give your child a task like setting the table and praise them lavishly for completing it.
Last, check to see how your plan is working- is your child arguing less now that you are spending 1:1 time with her? Is eating the “appetizer” reducing conflicts? If it doesn’t seem to be working, it may be time for some other theories about why your child is fighting with a sibling. You can brainstorm with friends or, if you are really stuck, consider talking to a professional who can help you figure out what is going on for your child. Sometimes it is easier for a professional to talk to your child about these things.