Brothers and sisters have a special bond. They share the same parents, grow up in the same family and vacation together for years. But despite that special relationship, most children argue more with their sibling than with others. “Parents often say: they can’t do it with or without each other,” says child and parent coach Hermina Terpstra from Kindgeluk. “They get in each other’s hair, but they also crawl into bed together. That is sometimes very double.”
Some children find it difficult to share the attention of their parents. “When a baby is born, an older child can become insecure: do mom and dad still love me enough? That can cause rivalry.” Sibling strife can also arise from clashing characters or the age difference. “For example, if the eldest is verbally stronger and the youngest can’t compete with that yet. He will then become physical sooner.”
“Children quickly point to the other. They find it difficult to recognize their own part.”
Hermina Terpstra, children’s coach
Quarrel is part of it
Do your children have conflicts with each other? Accept the argument, advises Terpstra. “Struggle in the house is part of it. If you think there should be no argument and think ‘there they go again’, then as a parent you quickly feel frustrated and despondent. Those negative feelings don’t help.” Arguing can also be instructive, the coach emphasizes. By arguing and solving, children develop social skills.
Children can practice these skills at home in a safe environment. “A boyfriend can end the friendship in a violent fight, but a brother will always be your brother, even if you disagree.” By arguing, for example, children learn to deal with emotions, to indicate boundaries and to take each other into account. They also take those skills into contact with peers.
Try to be impartial
Teach them to express their emotions and needs in words and to compromise. Terpstra: “That means deliberating, discussing and negotiating in a calm manner. Skills that also come in handy in other situations.” Teach a child to look at themselves too.
“Children are quick to point the finger at others. They find it difficult to recognize their own share. As a parent, you can help them by holding up a mirror to your children. How could would you like it if your sister did this to you? And what will you do differently next time?”
Try to be impartial. “A pitfall is that you start interpreting as a parent. But an interpretation quickly contains a judgment. Only state the facts and give both children the space to tell their story. Determine the problem together, help your children to express their feelings and identify needs and give them the space to come up with a solution, possibly with you as a mediator.”
So don’t avoid or ignore a fight, the children’s coach advises. “Don’t separate your children in advance, for fear that they will get in each other’s hair. Also give them the confidence that they can play together and resolve quarrels.”
Is there a lot of quarrels? Create a positive atmosphere, advises the children’s coach. “For example, by having your children tell you at dinner what they liked or liked about each other that day. This way you teach them to look at each other positively. It is nice if they eventually get along well. For most people, the relationship with their sibling the longest of their lives.”
Insecurity is a feeling that can impact anyone, regardless of age. But when it comes to children, it can have especially damaging consequences. This is