Are you as a twenty first century Gen X parent who wants to raise the kids in your family so that they won’t end up estranged in years to come?
Intervene immediately when a child hits or injures another child.
Don’t allow guilt to build up or a wound to fester between any children that might and create a future sibling “I Hate You” story.
Untended sibling lesions turn into “I Hate You” stories that may have to be dealt with decades later. You as the parent could be a villain in that sibling tale. Avoid the future toxic narrative thread by talking to both siblings right away, offering consequences if one child injured another, but also letting the siblings know that the wound is being swabbed and bandaged by you, the parents, in the here and now.
Settle the argument and heal emotional lesions by talking about what happened between the kids, not just punishing one child. Discuss the feelings that prompted the injury in the first place to expunge the negative feelings. Perhaps change your parenting methods to rearrange sibling interaction after you get to the bottom of the battle.
In my book Mom Loves You Best Forgiving and Forging Sibling Relationships I use midlife siblings Ted and John. Younger brother Ted and his older brother John grew up with a single mom, as the Dad walked out. She was an emotionally overwhelmed and immature mother, working as a salesclerk in a local dress store six days a week.
After school Ted was cared for kid brother John, who was psychologically confused and hurt by his dad leaving. The fun and freedom of after-school activities ended for John with babysitting. He resented the burden of Ted.
One afternoon Ted changed the television channel from John’s favorite sports show. Furious, John swept broken glass in a circle outside and jammed a stool in the middle. John grabbed Ted, lifted him onto the stool, and young Ted ended in the emergency room with many stitches in each foot. Their mom punished John, but since she needed him to watch Ted, she continued to leave John in charge, and she never talked about the incident again. Ted never forgave John, and they grew up with Ted feeling like John was his enemy instead of his trusted friend, creating distance between the brothers for almost half a century.
Avoid a future “I Hate You” story like Ted’s by tending to kid wounds right away. They do not have to be as severe as stitches. Sibling injuries can be emotional abuse as well as physical ill treatment. But the critical step is that you talk about what happened with your children almost immediately and get each sibling’s version of what happened. The significant next step is to see if you need to change your parenting behavior in any way to avoid another incident.
If Ted and John’s mom had understood the long-term consequences of continuing to leave Ted with John, she could have gotten her sister Miriam to look after Ted instead of leaving him with still angry and resentful John after school. Allowing John to go back to the sports he craved and sending Ted to Aunt Miriam’s would have gone a long way to putting the future “I Hate You” story in the trash and saving both siblings from half a century of estrangement.
So do not let siblings settle differences between themselves. Intervene right away and mediate the dispute post haste. Your involvement as a parent, talking to each sibling, then taking that information and arbitrating the argument, is key. Save brothers and sisters the disfigurements that result from unresolved hurt feelings or actual wounds. But get to the bottom of the disagreement and see if you need to adjust your parenting techniques or a child’s life, like Ted’s mom, who could have avoided a future “I Hate You” story