PAREN(T)HESIS — Sibling Fights

July 31, 2018

By Jill Rothenbueler Maher

When we are in the doldrums of winter, parents and other caregivers look forward to summer. Yet there can be something about August that brings out the ornery streak in children.

Other parents, especially teachers who stay home with their kids during summer, tell me that sibling rivalry flares up in August. Thinking back to my own childhood, I know my sister and I occasionally argued but I don’t remember when it peaked, other than on long car trips to the northern end of the state when we argued over space in the back seat. Our own daughter has no siblings but was close with a child at an in-home daycare. Two years in a row, she hit that child—in August.

Greeks and Romans expected doom and gloom during the dog days, which were named after an annual celestial event. To them, Sirius was the dog star of Orion and its ascendance brought war. Perhaps that means sibling war, too.

Many parents expect that their children will be emotionally close to one another, so it’s upsetting when reality looks different. All that arguing doesn’t seem like bonding.

Experts say that close relationships with siblings and even conflicts are healthy because they help kids deal with similar issues later in life. Of course, they are competing with one another and also competing for parental attention. They are learning to deal with the deepest emotions like envy, anger, and even hatred. Young siblings playing together can have as many as three to seven conflicts an hour, as reported by K.J. Dell’Antonia in the New York Times.

Some parents tend to intervene and help solve the problem, while others let the children work it out. Sibling arguments can be especially awkward for a parent when one child has a friend over to play and that friend witnesses the whole conflict and its repercussions.

Now, some Milwaukee schools start in August. The move was intended to help academically but may have a pleasant, unin­tended consequence—reduc­ing sibling squabbles.

“Dog days are actually defined as the period from July 3 through Aug. 11 when the Dog Star, Sirius, rises in conjunction (or nearly so) with the sun. As a result, some felt that the combination of the brightest luminary of the day (the sun) and the brightest star of night (Sirius) was responsible for the extreme heat that is experienced during the height of the summertime.”  Source:

The author is a freelance writer and mother of one. Reach her with comments or suggestions at

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