How to encourage a healthy, positive relationship and reduce conflict among siblings

As children, I’m sure whatever type of relationship we had with our siblings, we can remember clashing, arguing and fighting from time to time. Conflict is a natural part of growing up and will arise in all areas of life. Asserting our personalities, understanding our family dynamics and how we fit is all part of learning and understanding.

However, there can come a time when siblings often don’t see eye to eye, argue frequently and just can’t seem to be left alone together without an incident erupting. This is upsetting and exhausting for you as parents or guardians trying to deal with the issues and dynamics.  We can be so exhausted and frustrated when trying to resolve this, we may not realise the impact it has on our kids, which can create anxiety and impact confidence and sense of self.

What creates these dynamics?

Relationships are unique and complicated, and the answer is never straightforward. This could include a combination of factors:

  • Age differences can affect siblings more in childhood than adulthood – the gap can seem much wider in development terms and create a divide
  • Parental favouritism towards one child, which can have a big impact on the child who doesn’t feel as favoured or valued
  • Family dynamics, the creation of a family narrative around perceived traits of children – ‘the clever one’, ‘the less academic one’, ‘the bad apple’ etc, which is quite often accepted as ‘truth’ by children, who normalise their own childhood experiences based upon these perceptions
  • Personality matters too, when children are different in temperament and interests, enjoying and being in each other’s company can prove difficult.

Arguments are generally based around three key reasons

  • Boredom – what better way than to relieve boredom than to antagonise a sibling!
  • Seeking Parental attention – the ‘notice me’ behaviour
  • Accumulated resentment – your child may feel frustrated, victimised, or frustrated by a parent

How to improve the relationships between your kids and reduce arguments

Start by looking at the perception you have and relationships with each child – do you treat them fairly? Do you have pre-conceived notions you can readdress? If one child feels singled out or victimised it can perpetuate a negative sibling dynamic and create resentment toward you the parent, or the sibling

  • Avoid labels and comparisons
  • Notice and reward generous, loving, and caring behaviour and point it out with specific and clear language, rather than looking to enforce group punishments, remove privileges, or judging without hearing the whole story
  • You don’t need to maintain equality at all times but do commit yourself to and recognise what each child needs from you. The important thing is to make them feel secure within their emotional needs
  • Choose the right time when looking to deal with the situation – it may be worth letting emotions subside and discussing it with your children once things are a little calmer
  • Use the conflicts to educate, there’s no better opportunity to teach conflict resolution skills than within a real conflict setting. Your kids will need these skills as they go through life.

If you require advice and support for your child, or would like to find out more about our 1:1s or workshops call 0333 358 0390 or say