Quarrels between siblings, forbidden to intervene

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It really happens in all families with small children: a trifle is enough to trigger a quarrel between siblings. And the 'poor' parents find themselves protagonists of an arbitrage they would gladly do without. Well, the best behavior is just not to get involved in the little skirmishes of the children and let them deal with each other. Word of the pedagogist Daniele Novara.

In this article

  • Quarrels between siblings, why do they happen
  • Quarrels between siblings, what to do 

Quarrels between brothers, why they happen

"It is inherent in nature that two little brothers quarrel" begins Daniele Novara, pedagogist and director of the Psychopedagogical Center for Peace and Conflict Management in Piacenza and author of various books on children's education, including "Litigating to grow up - proposals for early childhood" (Edizioni Erickson, Trento 2022 ): "it is the consequence of the physiological jealousy of the older siblings towards the younger ones, who are the new arrivals and, in the eyes of the first-born, want to 'usurp' the affection of mum and dad. Especially if, as happens more and more often , they are the only two children, who therefore compete for the 'primacy'.

Through quarreling, children try to show off with their parents in order to get their involvement, especially when they see them distracted from their occupations : it is no coincidence that children fight more when their parents are intent on doing something else - watching TV, reading a book or working on the PC - and especially in the presence of the mother, who is the one who immediately rushes to the first scream (unlike the father, who usually does not mobilize too much and therefore does not 'give pleasure' to arguing); another typical moment is the return from work, in which the child demands attention after many hours spent away from the parent.

They are exhibitionistic attitudes, the purpose of which is not the quarrel itself but precisely that of attracting attention and, perhaps, obtaining the consent of the mother ".

Quarrels between brothers, what to do

Starting from these assumptions, the best behavior on the part of parents can be summarized in four points:

  1. Don't intervene. The temptation to intervene is strong, because the quarrel disturbs and the children scream, cry, beat each other, in short, they do everything to involve us. "Instead, it is good to keep aside and above all avoid looking for the 'culprit', asking 'who did it', because it is an attitude that increases the negative emotional index of the children, makes them feel inadequate and triggers a mechanism to spiral, in the attempt, by those found guilty, to prove that it is not ", underlines Daniele Novara. You just need to check that the children are not hurt, even if it is difficult for childhood fights to lead to truly dangerous behavior.
  2. Don't give the solution from above. Contrary to what the parent thinks, children have great self-regulatory abilities and have the skills to face their own difficulties on their own: "Quarrels are a tool for personal growth, a training ground for freedom, an experience of contact, which helps the child to strengthen himself, teaches him to be among others, to recognize his own limits ", comments the expert; "and then spurs him to develop creative strategies, to look for an alternative solution, which will give him satisfaction and perhaps give him the opportunity to reconcile with his brother. Intervening 'from above' would prevent them from discovering and testing all these resources , hindering their path towards autonomy ".
  3. Encourage them to talk to each other. Sometimes parents tend to dampen the quarrel immediately because they fear that it may worsen, instead they have to help the children to confront each other, to express their point of view and express their emotions, but always among themselves, without turning to their mother and without ask for his opinion. For example, it is good to tell them: "You are good at getting by yourself, talk to each other but without insulting each other, explain to each other what happened". In short, the parent must do the work of directing, of mediation, but not of arbitration. Other times the parent spontaneously tends to take the side of the little one, seeing in the behavior of the older one an attempt to take advantage of the little brother's naivety to grab something more. Also in this case, we must let the children find an agreement among themselves and in the end, whatever they decide, if it is good for them, it is good for everyone!
  4. Seal the deal. The last step consists in 'sealing' the agreement: "for example, you can keep a notebook of the agreements reached, in which you can write down all the agreements made, or write them on a blackboard" suggests Dr. Novara. "But sometimes the reasons for the quarrel are so trivial that there is no need to find an agreement and it all ends there as it began!".

Video: Quarrels between brothers, what to do? Daniele Novara answers

Questions and answers

Is it normal for two siblings to fight all the time? 

Yes. It is the consequence of the physiological jealousy of the older brothers towards the younger ones, who are the newcomers, and want to 'usurp' the affection of mum and dad.  

If young children argue, is it necessary to intervene? 

The temptation to intervene is strong. Instead, it is good to keep aside and above all to avoid looking for the 'culprit', because it is an attitude that increases the negative emotional index of the children, makes them feel inadequate.

  • quarrels between brothers
  • jealousy between brothers
  • children's education and psychology
  • 3-5 children years
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