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My rush to pack lunches and prepare breakfast was interrupted by my little one wailing, “Mommy, he said that I can’t ride on the bus!” I looked into the family room to see my two sweet boys—brothers— sitting side by side on the couch. Only now they weren’t being so sweet as they snarked, poked, and screamed at one another.

Disregarding the fact that my youngest, a preschooler, can’t ride on the bus, I sternly scolded my oldest son for pointing out this fact after firmly telling his little brother to stop his fit. Then I promptly made them apologize to one another, which they did—reluctantly and half-heartedly. It was momentarily enough to satisfy my fear that they hated each other.

My fear is, of course, unfounded when considering the evidence of their boundless love for each other. My oldest is quick to teach, protect, and indulge his little brother’s want to learn, follow, and copy. And my youngest freely shows his affection for his brother with hugs, kisses, and proclamations that is the best older brother.

Yet when they fight, which they do, I hurt. I am quick to defend one or the other, to settle the dust, and make peace. I suppose it’s because I love each of them so much that when they feel sad or slighted, I feel the pain of it. And that pain doubles when the source of their hurt is their sibling.

Rationally and from experience, I know that their squabbling is normal, natural, and even necessary. Growing up with three older brothers, I am very familiar with screaming matches, endless teasing, and desserts being licked (a tactic to steal the last piece of cake).

My parents rarely interceded, believing we would—and should—work it out by ourselves, which we did. Yes, I lost out on a few cookies and cupcakes but I also gained some serious debating skills and a sense of humor. Co-existing with three people who shared my space and parents taught me compromise, loyalty and love.

The bickering between my brothers and me was in many ways an important, and necessary, part of our lives together. Fighting with one another meant we would also fight for each other. Taking out our frustrations on one another meant that there was trust that the other would understand and forgive. Teasing meant we knew each other enough to push the right buttons.

So, should you stop sibling rivalry?

Unless there is imminent danger then no you shouldn’t stop your children from squabbling. Why?

Sibling rivalry serves a purpose. It allows us to find our place and position in our family and sometimes in the world. And, most importantly, it teaches us that love can survive much more than a childish spat.

Moments later, my boys who are playing nicely together again interrupt into shouts and shrieks. Heading quickly towards them, I stop and wait. One scolds the other for snatching a car. The car is handed back with an apology and their play happily continues.

Standing there, my intervention and subsequent lecture unneeded, I realize that siblings will snatch from one another, get jealous of each other, and fight with one another. But in spite of it—or maybe even because of it—they will still care about and love each other.

So before you step in to stop it, step aside, wait and watch because your children will work it out together in their own way.

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Sherry Parnell

A full-time writer, personal trainer, and professor, I am the author of Let the Willows Weep and Daughter of the Mountain. An alumnus of Dickinson College and West Chester University, I live with my husband and sons in Glenmoore, Pennsylvania. I am currently working on my third novel entitled The Secrets Mother Told.

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