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Parenting Dilemmas

Updated on August 20, 2016

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Parenting Dilemmas: Sibling Relationship and Conflicts

When considering sibling relationships, it is important to keep in mind that there are going to be times when children disagree and become involved in conflict. Younger children are in the position to learn social skills and behavioral mannerisms from firstborn siblings. The early childhood and preschool influences that stem from sibling relationships will go a long way into shaping cognitive development, because the young siblings interact, attempt to understand another individual’s feelings like anger and generosity. Moreover, despite the positive aspects of sibling relationships, conflicts are a given. (Heath, 2013, p. 189). In situations where siblings are having a conflicts, parents need to maintain a position that does not increase the anger one sibling may feel for another, and this is accomplished by not taking sides and by encouraging a set of guidelines that will foster cooperation as the final resolution (Heath, 2013, p. 190).


Psychologist Jean Piaget noted that preschoolers are developed enough to engage in symbolic thinking, which is thinking that can now use words and gestures and other means to reflect their ideas. However, between the ages of two and six, the young preschoolers' symbolic thinking is not at the same level as an older child or an adult-it is not completely logical. Preschoolers, according to Piaget, overgeneralize. Therefore, their perceptions within a situation may reflect this over-generalization. In addition, preschoolers look and approach ideas through a lens of egocentrism, meaning they have a strong point of view and are not able to look at situations objectively yet. Moreover, preschoolers' are not cognitively developed enough to focus on many situations, and focus on one situation at a time (Heath, 2013, p. 178).


Therefore, parents that have the challenge of sibling conflict can be more positive in the way they handle the situation by understanding that their preschool aged child has these limitations, as noted. In fact, the spacing of children may present a situation where both siblings are preschoolers, and therefore both will be limited in logical processing-and have egocentric tendencies. A common problem that occurs between siblings is an inability to share. Understanding this situation through Piaget's scope, parents can approach the conflict without anger and stress, because this is normal and not indicative of selfishness (Heath, 2013, p. 178). Moreover, parents can implement preventive techniques such as making sure both children have the same toys, or distracting the child with another enticing toy. In addition, since Piaget also noted that preschoolers are not able to see two simultaneous situations with equal judgement, it may be beneficial for parents to use plates and cups that are the same to prevent one child from thinking the other has more of something (Heath, 2013, pp. 178-179). In this way, parents can prevent jealousy, which seems to be a common root to most sibling conflicts.


In Lev Vygotsky's view, preschoolers are inquisitive and ask "why" and expect that their role models will have an answer. It is through this questioning that young children develop cognitively, and parents have the opportunity of assisting cognitive development by guiding self-regulatory behaviors. Therefore, in situations where there is sibling conflict, parents can encourage self-regulatory behavior by giving simple steps on how they may be able to resolve the conflict, while still giving them enough room to independently resolve the conflict (Heath, 2013, p. 179).


Source: Heath, P. (2013). Parent-child relations: Context, research, and application (3rd ed.). Upper Saddle River, New Jersey: Pearson Education, Inc.

© 2014 Jan

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