Why It’s Actually a Good Idea to Let Siblings Fight
Nothing pushes parental buttons quite like the sound of a little kid landing a hard left hook and then…five seconds later…a sibling’s siren-like wail. But before you start refereeing their next smackdown, consider these arguments against (always) intervening.
Conflict fuels creativity
Writes University of Pennsylvania management and psychology professor Adam Grant in The New York Times: “The skill…to have a good argument that doesn’t become personal is critical in life. But it’s one that few parents teach to their children. We want to give kids a stable home, so we stop siblings from quarreling and we have our own arguments behind closed doors. Yet if kids never get exposed to disagreement, we’ll end up limiting their creativity.” Making their case, negotiating, compromising, taking responsibility—there are life skills to be gained from a living room throwdown. And don’t feel too guilty about (healthily) hashing things out with your partner within earshot of little listeners. Grant cites a study that directly links adults’ creativity with having grown up in homes that were less than harmonious: “Results revealed that parental conflict was significantly positively related to later adult levels of creativity.”
Resolving their own conflicts makes kids independent
Psychologists advocate *calmly* getting involved if kids’ fights escalate to the point of violence. But parenting blogger and mom of four boys Melissa L. Fenton cautions against knee-jerk intervention. She brings up this viral post as an example of mediating run amok: “I don’t have time to facilitate sibling slow-dance therapy (and if anybody is first in line to get therapy around here it’s gonna be me),” she writes. “Real life isn’t like that, where we have therapeutic interventions all day long, and the sooner my children know that they need to learn the skills to settle real differences, the better…I don’t want my kids always having to depend on me, or a third party, to facilitate reconciliation.”
Fighting preps them for the playground...
Children who are accustomed to arguing are not shocked into submission when they inevitably face conflict. “If we rarely see a spat, we learn to shy away from the threat of conflict,” writes Grant. “Witnessing arguments—and participating in them—helps us grow a thicker skin… There’s no better time than childhood to learn how to dish it out—and to take it.” And no better opponent to practice on, psychologists say, than our siblings.
…and sets them up for career success
What do litigators, literary agents, senators and CEOs have in common? They all excel at arguing the art of persuasion.