Teenagers choose their friends based on similar likes and interests, but they cannot choose their siblings. They might even feel they have little in common with them. Sibling fights peak in early adolescence, particularly when the youngest sibling hits this age. The most common areas of conflict between teenage siblings are equality and fairness, personal space, possessions, and friends.
It is normal for teenage siblings to fight over many things. Teenage siblings argue just as much as younger children, but they fight about different things.
Sibling fighting can be stressful for you, but it has a useful purpose. When children interact with parents, they learn about authority. Interactions between brothers and sisters help them learn about relating to peers. If we handles it the right way, sibling fighting can help children learn important life skills, like how to:
- solve problems and resolve conflicts
- treat others with empathy
- deal with different opinions
- compromise and negotiate.
Listening to children’s fights can infuriate and stressful, but this stage will pass. They might fight today, but siblings can offer each other support and protection at other times. Sibling squabbles can also help your children learn to be better friends, partners, and workmates later in life.
Resolving arguments by themselves teaches children essential life skills, so avoid always stepping in to solve problems for them – although this might be faster and less stressful. Try asking your children to listen to each other’s perspective, then guide them towards a compromise.
You can look at what the conflict is about rather than focusing on who started it. If they are fighting, they are both responsible. Avoid getting into debates about what is fair and equal because children usually feel that things are not fair. If you take sides, one child might feel unfairly treated and feel you are showing favoritism. You can also motivate your children to resolve the fight themselves. They might need to take a break to calm down before they work on the problem, but if they cannot compromise, create a consequence for both of them.
Violent verbal or physical fights can harm the long-term relationship between siblings and can affect their mental health. You need to step in if your children are being verbally or physically violent towards each other.
You might reduce or avoid fights between teenage siblings with positive family relationships:
- Give children their own personal domains. This could be a room that other children can enter only when invited, belongings they don’t have to share, or time with friends with no need to include their siblings.
- Encourage joint interests or family activities like exercising, going shopping or watching movies together.
- Try to stay connected to your children. Make sure your children know they can talk with you about any problem, and that you will try to help them find a solution.
- Establish clear family rules. You could have family meetings to talk about problems and suggest solutions.