Clinician's Digest

Clinician's Digest

Conflict Mediation for Siblings

By Garry Cooper

September/October 2007

Many parents view sibling conflicts as a proving ground that prepares their children for a world that's not always benevolent or just, and they usually intervene only when they themselves cant stand the ruckus. Although children's conflicts can provide opportunities to find out about sharing, empathy, and compassion, researchers note that those lessons, if they're learned at all, usually come not from communication between the aggrieved children, but through parents' autocratic decisions and judgments.

Psychologist Hildy Ross of Canada's University of Waterloo has found that its better for parents and children when parents act as mediators rather than referees, however. Shes developed a model to show mothers how to mediate their children's conflicts in a single hour-and-a-half session.

In a study reported in the March 2004 Journal of Family Psychology, Ross and psychologist Afshan Siddiqui of Toronto, Ontario, found that mothers and children aged 5 to 8 were pleased with maternal mediation, and that the children--including the youngest members of battling sibling pairs--felt more empowered, talked more about their feelings, and tried harder to come up with fair solutions than did control groups who didn't use mediation. Now, writing in the June issue of Child Development, Ross and psychologist Julie Smith of Calgary, Alberta, find that children whose mothers have helped mediate their disputes absorb the technique so well that their subsequent…

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