WAR & peace
70 | MAY & JUNE 2017
very exasperated parent has thrown her hands in the air and asked, “Why do they fight all the time? Where did we go wrong?” Answer? Provided you manage sibling rivalry empathetically, and you don’t regularly lose control of your own emotions in front of them, you didn’t. In most cases, siblings fighting is not only not a sign your children don’t love each other, or that their home life
MINE, MINE, MINE Babies under two struggle to understand the abstract concept of possession. They think whoever holds the toy owns it. And children under three are just busy learning about sharing – it is hard for them to see another person’s perspective during this egocentric time. “They are still developing empathy and concern for others,” says Robyn-leigh. Praise your eldest when he is able to share, and explain, “small children like your sister struggle to wait turns. But she can’t always take your toys. That’s not right.” Simply hearing you take his side will help him feel heard. Then try distraction, negotiation or swopping toys. YB
You have a house full of toy cars but it’s the flimsy Lucky Packet one they’re murdering each other over. Why? Some arguments are not about the actual toy in dispute, “but about the underlying meaning of the toy,” says counselling psychologist Robyn-leigh Smith. “The toy may symbolise having to share their parents. The children may feel that there is not enough love to go around and they need to literally fight for it.”
Children watch you intently for signs that you treat them unequally. Is your oldest always having to be the “grownup” when sometimes he yearns for the time he was a baby? Are your baby’s needs ignored because he cannot speak up for himself yet? Keep an ear out for when siblings fighting is actually sibling rivalry and a cry for help from one of your children.
“Some children naturally have a more ‘difficult’ temperament,” says RobynLeigh. And sometimes the kids bicker because they are simply tired, hungry