Any parent of multiple children knows that sibling fights are not unusual. Even the most loving of families can struggle on a regular basis with the reality of brothers and sisters getting along.

Sibling fights can occur for a lot of different reasons. In some homes, space is tight and being in very close quarters all the time can create some frustration. Sometimes just too much “togetherness” can get wearing. (Have you ever gone on vacation with someone and discovered your patience with each other wearing thin as the trip went on?) In some cases, sibling personalities are very different, and each can find the other person’s habits to be difficult to tolerate. For some children, there can be resentment over perceived favoritism from parents to a particular brother or sister. The ultimate reason may be that a certain amount of fighting is to be expected when humans are in the process of growing up and learning about self-regulation and everyone’s place in the world.

So we know it’s going to happen, but how can we minimize the impact? As always, role modeling is critical. When the adults in children’s lives demonstrate the ability to disagree respectfully and work through differences in a positive manner, those children will have a head start on handling conflict more constructively. Parents, teachers, and all adults need to intentionally teach problem solving skills and establish environments where respect is an absolute non-negotiable. When children slip into rudeness or name-calling toward each other, adults need to step in immediately and enforce ground rules of respect and willingness to take turns listening to all parties.

One great resource to use with young children early on is the book The Berenstain Bears Get in a Fight by Stan and Jan Berenstain. Children relate well to the characters and their real-life conflicts and it’s a great conversation starter to discuss disagreements in your own home and possible solutions. Even preschoolers can understand how Brother Bear and Sister Bear can have a hard time being kind to each other all of the time.

Sibling fights are a part of growing up, but hopefully, by investing some time proactively, your family will spend more and more time with everyone getting along.