Eight Ways to Get on Top of Sibling Rivalry
Sibling rivalry is a part of growing up. And being in the middle of your children’s fights is an inevitable part of parenting. While some siblings get along great from day one, I have yet to meet a parent whose children have never had a fight.
What your children fight about will range from the completely logical to the absolutely absurd. Often the degree of sibling rivalry and the long-term effect on your children’s relationship depends on what parents do about it.
So, what is the best way to tackle sibling rivalry?
Parenting expert and author, Elizabeth Pantley addresses sibling rivalry in her Kid Cooperation: How to Stop Yelling, Nagging & Pleading and Get Kids to Cooperate and offers some tips that are invaluable for parents.
Understand their emotions
“Rivalry comes not from their feelings about each other, but from their need to be loved by their parents,” Pantley suggests.
While it may seem like your children really dislike one another, it is often simply that they require more attention from you. Taking these feelings out of their sibling, who is probably getting the attention your child craves at that moment, is a normal reaction.
Don’t always be the referee
While sometimes you need to step up and get in the middle, sometimes it is okay to back down and let your children work it out. Pantley explains, “Allowing your children to drag you into each and every dispute is unhealthy for their relationship and frustrating for you.”
Rather, give them suggestions of how to resolve an issue. For example, when your child gets angry that his sister won’t share a toy, suggest he uses his words and asks her to swap a toy with her instead.
Focus on individual attention, rather than equal attention.
In most instances, one child will require more attention than the other. A newborn is going to be a lot more demanding than a five-year-old. As they grow older, one child may require more assistance with schoolwork and reading than the other.
Show positive attention, rather than equal attention. Equal attention is not always fair. It all depends on your child’s individual needs and temperament.
Encourage a peaceful environment
The best way to promote harmony? Practice it yourself. Avoid fighting with your partner in front of the children and try to limit yelling, nagging, threatening and other negative behavioural approaches when with your children.
Sticking to a regular routine with rules that the entire family has to follow is one way to keep the peace.
Discourage dobbing; encourage positive communication.
My daughter’s favourite pastime these days is to dob on her brother. It’s annoying for everyone in the household and usually ends in a fight. Teach them how to communicate between one another without the need to dob.
Pantley suggests, “Keep your words positive, make suggestions and let kids decide what to do with them.” You don’t always have to be the referee. Try to take on the role as a mediator in some instances.
Nothing is worse than feeling inferior. “Appreciate children for who they are. Don’t compare,” states Pantley.
Your children are going to compete in so many aspects of life but avoid comparing them and focus on their individual strengths and what them so special instead. Promoting this sense of individualism is so much better for their self-esteem and helps deter negative associations with their siblings.
Help them understand just how incredible siblings are
Friends come and go; siblings are forever.
Your children are probably still too little to understand how important of a role siblings will play in their lives.
While my brother and I fought throughout our childhood, he is now one of the first people I turn to and one of my best friends. I can only hope that one day, my two will stop arguing about who gets the blue cup and who gets to sit beside me at the dinner table, and realise this important life lesson.
Kids are going to fight and it is these fights that will help shape their development and how they socialise with others. Learning how to get along with a sibling teaches them about compromise, competitiveness and conflict, all valuable lessons in life.
You may think your children are never going to get along. But, one day they will. And you will be amazed.
I remember the first time my eldest stood up for his little sister at the park when another child pushed her over. He ran straight up to the child, shielded his sister with his arms, and shouted, “That’s my sister! Only I can push her.”
Hey, it’s a start, right?