Why are siblings always fighting? And why do they get so much pleasure from seeing how quickly they can aggravate each other? Is it really so very hard to just get along? Psychologists probably have reasonable answers to these questions. My best answer is that children are so very childish and generally selfish. But they do grow up.
Since we only had one daughter, she had the littlest bedroom. This room also had two doors. One went into the kitchen and the other was access to the hallway. It drove her crazy when her brothers would use her room as a hallway shortening their trip from the kitchen to their room or the bathroom. They fully understood that it aggravated her but they did it anyway. Maybe they did it because it aggravated her. Sometimes they would enter from the kitchen, pause and talk to her as though conversation was the motive for their being in her room and then exit through the other door; hence using her room as hallway again. Yes, this was premeditated aggravation. I failed at resolving this problem. Thankfully they did mature and stop this behavior. She moved out of that room when she was ten because it was needed again as a nursery.
We did have a few successes at ending the fighting along the way. If the children were poking or hitting each other while in the van I required them to sit on their offending hands. Both parties had to do this for it to be effective. This punishment was also effective at home or in a public setting.
If one sibling decided to mimic another I would tell the one being mimicked not to get upset but to realize the power and control that was just given them over the mimicker. When the mimicker realized they were no longer inflicting the aggravation they desired to inflict the mimicking usually ended.
It seemed like the siblings closest in age fought the most. The eldest rarely argued with the youngest. But both of them would argue and fight with the siblings closest in age to them. The source of much sibling fighting is the struggle with selfish desires and securing what is fair for me. We minimized some of the sibling rivalry with our host child system, which I wrote about in a post called Host Child.
For most of their childhood sons number 2 and 3 shared the same bedroom. When number two decided to occupy an unfinished area of the basement, I though the separation and extra space between them would be positive. It was not. There was lots of arguing and I frequently heard loud yelling of “Get out of my room”. The space was not good. They were brought back together. It was much better that way. Children don’t always need their own space. Sharing is good.
Like a married couple children can also learn to fight fair. Here are my fair fighting rules. 1. No name calling ever. 2. Make “I” statements rather than “You” statements. 3. If you are too angry to be calm then take a time out but agree to discuss the issue later. 4. Figure out a compromise that all parties can accept. Being a peacemaker is more noble and godly than insisting on my “rights”. 5. Stick to the topic at hand and do not bring up old or unrelated stuff. By helping your children learn fair fighting you are equipping them to handle adult conflicts as well.
Here are my final tips which I am now practicing with the grandchildren. Oldest or youngest should not always be the first at something. Use creativity and mix it up. Help the other siblings be happy for each other when something special occurs for only one of them. Set a timer (to keep it fair) when siblings or cousins are taking turns playing games on Oma’s Kindle.