Sibling rivalries are common within families, and sometimes disagreements among children can be concerning. There are ways parents can help siblings work through conflicts.

As a pediatrician and a mom, Dr. Pilar Bradshaw knows well that siblings often tangle. It’s a natural part of child development.

“They’re learning about social relationships,” she says. “They’re learning about sharing. They’re learning about caregiving from each other and often that goes off the rails.”

The home is a great place for children to develop skills they’ll need as adults and practice the appropriate use of words. In that way, Dr. Bradshaw says, sibling disagreements can actually be helpful as they learn to resolve conflicts.

Dr. Bradshaw shares four tips for handling sibling conflicts:

No. 1: Intervene before someone gets hurt
“If kids are actually hurting each other, a parent needs to step in. I think it’s also important to be listening to the conversation and intervene when there’s a point where they’re actually causing each other significant emotional damage. So, if there is absolute unkindness that is happening, that’s a good time for parents to step in.”

No. 2: Keep your cool
“Remember when you’re intervening as a parent, watch your words. Because it’s not that the kids are bad, it’s that the behavior is bad. Also remember, when everyone is escalated, nobody is able to hear, everybody is on an adrenaline rush—including the parents—so don’t try to have a teaching moment right when your kids are super upset. Try to get everybody to separate, give it 20-30 minutes for the adrenaline to decrease and then you can go back to the situation and have a real discussion.”

No. 3: Listen fairly and identify the root cause of the conflict
“Anger is always a secondary emotion, meaning there’s something underneath that anger, whether it’s anxiety or sadness or frustration about what caused that conflict. Try to get to that underneath after the conflict when you’re trying to resolve it.”

No. 4: Resolve problems with your kids, not for them
“Kids who are over the age of about 5 can often suggest a way to resolve a conflict, so engaging your kids and asking them, ‘What do you think would be fair in this situation?’ can be helpful.”

Remember, too, that parents’ ability to help children figure out how to resolve conflicts in a healthy way is going to affect whether they can build and maintain close relationships with each other as adults.

For more on refereeing sibling conflicts, here are some great resources for further reading: