Why Sibling Rivalry can be a GOOD Thing!

The following is a short excerpt from my ‘The Second Baby Book’:
With so many resources giving parents advice to stop sibling fighting, we lose sight of the positive side of these seemingly negative interactions. Parents are often so eager to stop any fighting that they don’t realise that actually, most sibling fights, provide wonderful communication education, personal growth and emotional literacy to both siblings. To aim to stop any sibling squabbles is not only naïve (because no families have siblings that don’t fight, often regularly!), but a lost learning opportunity for the children. Rather than getting stressed worrying about fighting siblings, my best advice is to accept the behaviour, for the normal, common and positive thing that it is.
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So, why is sibling rivalry positive?

Research from Cambridge University has found that fighting siblings help each other’s emotional development. Largely, because the relationships help siblings to explore a large range of feelings in relation to social interaction, which is likely to help them in future social situations, particularly when it comes to verbalising their feelings. Siblings who squabbled tended to have a more mature range and understanding of emotionally rich language, than those without siblings. The lead study researcher, Dr. Claire Hughes said that “the balance of our evidence suggests that children’s social understanding may be accelerated by their interaction with siblings in many cases. One of the key reasons for this seems to be that a sibling is a natural ally. They are often on the same wavelength, and they are likely to engage in the sort of pretend play that helps children to develop an awareness of mental states.”

In short, sibling fighting allows children to grow up practicing social skills that will be necessary to see them peacefully through life. They get to practice the less positive side of relationships, tackle personal conflict and understand how their behaviour affects others in the safety of their own home, so that when they leave it, they carry with them the important lessons to future relationships. With no, or little fighting, they lose the opportunity for this important emotional development. For parents, sibling rivalry can often be hard to handle and something that most seek to, unsuccessfully, avoid, but for the children, it’s a gift.

The Second Baby Book is published in paperback, e-book and audiobook. You can order:
HERE in the UK
HERE in Australia
HERE in New Zealand
HERE in the USA
HERE in Canada
HERE elsewhere in the world

About SarahOckwell-Smith

Sarah Ockwell-Smith, Parenting author and mother to four.
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