"He threw his cereal at me!"
"He pushed me!"
"I did not!"
I was in the shower, hurrying to get ready for a busy day. Hammering on the bathroom door were my then 10-year-old twins, Andrew and Russell.
"Just a minute," I shouted, reaching for a towel. Scuffling sounds punctuated the continuing litany of accusations. "Here we go again!" I grumbled through clenched teeth as I pulled on my robe, ready for battle.
Then I laughed. For a moment, I?d forgotten I was to speak that morning to a young mothers? group on the topic of sibling conflict and rivalry. But I wasn?t sure I could practice what I was about to preach. Even today, after 30 years of raising children, I find handling sibling conflict one of the most difficult areas of parenting.
We have nine children, ages 11-30, and if there?s one thing I know it?s that brothers and sisters will fight over anything, from who gets the last piece of cake to who gets to sit in the front seat of the car. Can parents change this or are we doomed to be dragged through the mud of an endless sibling tug-of-war until the kids go to college?
Experts offer hope mixed with a dose of reality. Some things, such as the temperament and genetic make-up of each child, are beyond a parent?s control. However, studies have shown parenting style to be a key factor in determining the way children in a family relate to each other.
Here are some ideas I?ve acquired from other parents, picked up from experts, or learned the hard way myself.1