Hearing kids bicker about who had a toy first or who gets which spot at the breakfast table can drive any parent batty. Surprisingly, while these sibling spats are maddening to witness, experts say they can actually have a positive impact on children. Here are three hidden rewards:
1. Improved social skills. Interacting with siblings—whether it’s deciding which TV show to watch or who gets first turn on the scooter—is a safe training ground for kids to work on skills such as conflict resolution, sharing, and negotiation. Unlike friendships, which can more easily unravel, siblings aren’t going anywhere, which gives them the opportunity (we’re together a lot) and incentive (if we’re stuck with each other, we might as well work it out) to practice social interaction, including give-and-take and tolerance and patience. Even when the “discussion” turns heated, kids are learning to compromise and cooperate—skills that will benefit them on the playground, in the classroom, and throughout life.
2. More robust emotional language skills. Being unable to articulate feelings can be a big source of frustration for little ones. Interacting with siblings, even if it involves arguing or teasing, offers kids an opportunity to describe how they’re feeling and how to gauge siblings’ emotions. Besides that, sparring sibs are both practicing language they can use to stand up for themselves outside the home and also developing more resilience in managing uncomfortable situations.
3. Increased interest and skill in sports. Seeing an older sib have a ball on the soccer field or win a tennis match gives younger kids a front-row seat to sports they may be inspired to try themselves. Not only do sibs provide each other with built-in practice partners, a little sibling-to-sibling rivalry can encourage each child to excel. Trying to keep up with the big kids can pay off in increased interest in sports and improved skills for younger sibs