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Sibling Squabbles

Working through these inevitable disputes


June 2014

"She took my toy and broke it!"

"No I didn't!"

"Yes, you did!"


No matter how much effort you may put into creating a peaceful family environment, siblings argue with each other – a lot. Fortunately, these disputes are a healthy, perfectly normal part of childhood, and actually provide kids with problem-solving opportunities and life lessons. The problem isn't so much the fighting itself, but how parents choose to handle it.

Can't we all just get along?

Kids fight for a variety of reasons – frustration, jealousy, power struggles, attention – all of which are completely valid. Stephanie Lowe Sagebiel, a therapist and licensed clinical social worker at CenterPoint Counseling, explains, "not only is fighting among siblings inevitable, it's an important contribution to child development in teaching children how to function in the world."

The home often becomes a hot spot for arguments because children feel safe and comfortable expressing their emotions with the people they know best. "Siblings provide the first lesson in how to behave in groups in the outside world," says Sagebiel. "Siblings teach each other how to share, recognize their strengths and weaknesses, manage intense emotions and cope with the unfairness in life."

Eileen S., a mom of three from Indianapolis, says her kids (ages 11, 8, and 20 months) typically argue over choices – whose turn it is to pick a restaurant, what Wii game to play or even who gets to sit by their baby sister. "Both the older kids have developed a very clear sense of what they believe 'fair' to mean," Eileen says. "They are extremely sensitive to how my husband and I each interact with their siblings – always on the lookout for preferential treatment."

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Tags: Featured Article, Featured Article, In This Issue, Parenting

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