January 10, 2018
Parenting Tips: 12 Tips That Help When You’re Dealing with Sibling Rivalry
Written by Rachel Eddins
If you have more than one child, you’re dealing with sibling rivalry.
It is human nature to feel competitive and envious toward others. A moderate spirit of competition is a positive and productive attribute in school and in business.
Sibling rivalry is a normal part of growing up in families. The competition between siblings starts when the second child is born.
The constant fighting may often be a cause of stress and frustration for you. But how severe the conflicts are and what long-term effects they will have on your children depends much on how you’re dealing with sibling rivalry in your home.
So, how do you know when you should get involved in a squabble and when you shouldn’t? And how can you put a stop to excessive sibling rivalry and promote peace in your home?
12 Tips for Dealing with Sibling Rivalry
1. Encourage a team spirit and having fun as a family.
Establish a peaceful setting in which your children can have fun with each other. Get together regularly as a family and play ball, watch a movie, or enjoy child-friendly board games. Take a family trip to the Cockrell Butterfly Center in Houston, the Dinosaur Valley Park in Glen Rose, or even the Padre Island National Seashore near Corpus Christi. Fun times spent together can help our children to bond with one another and you.
2. Make sure that all of your children understand family rules and consequences.
Set rules in a fair and consistent way to discourage inappropriate behaviors. Ensure that each child knows and understands the consequences for not following these rules. If there is an infraction, everyone involved should be held responsible for their part in the incident. The simple reason: it takes more than one to have a fight. Make clear that you want them to learn to walk away instead of clash.
3. When in doubt, intervene.
As long as you don’t have one child abusing another, don’t get in the middle of the conflict. However, if they’re in danger of hurting each other or damaging property, intervene. Stop the fight and listen to both sides. Give them space to vent their anger, but not on one another. Instead, show them alternative ways to handle their differences and express your confidence that they can work it out peacefully.
Make it a rule that family members may become involved in incidents between siblings only if they actually saw what happened. This keeps people from being manipulated.
4. Remember that total equality is impossible.
Strive to be balanced. Each of your children is an individual. You don’t have to behave as if they’re the same. As much as possible, aim for balance and avoid favoritism, but don’t beat yourself up if you can’t be one-hundred percent fair. They will sense the fairness in your decisions if you assure each of them of your love and attention.
When you give things to children, base your choices on their individual needs and interests. If you try to avoid arguments by giving equal gifts to each child, they will inevitably find something about them that is unfair.
5. Strive to minimize comparisons.
Children resent being compared to others. So, don’t praise your children’s characteristics, skills, or accomplishments in relation to a sibling. Help them to see their own special qualities and that you value and appreciate each child for themselves. You may need to explain that, as they get older, they will get different privileges and more responsibilities. It will help them look forward to reaching those goals and not feeling inferior.
Sometimes one child is more cooperative or better behaved than another. It’s normal to compare siblings, but it’s generally better not to talk about it. Comparing two kids doesn’t help improve their behavior; instead, it intensifies the sense of envy and jealousy. A more constructive strategy is to limit your comments to the problem behavior. Avoid telling one child that his or her sibling does something better.
6. Make an effort to promote empathy and defuse jealousy.
Help your children understand the value of empathy. Sensitivity to each others’ feelings and difficulties will help strengthen their relationships. And if one child is still envious of their sibling, simply acknowledge that both of them have different skills to be proud of. Kids will ask, so be ready to give some concrete examples.
7. Initiate friendship with a new sibling before their birth.
Prepare your older children to accept their new sibling into the family before birth. Let them pat the baby in your tummy and feel it kick, show them pictures of the baby growing in your womb, and encourage them to talk to their unborn sibling.
8. When your children are in an argument, avoid taking sides.
If you can, encourage them to work out their differences. It is almost impossible to try to determine who started a fight. Even if you know who started the argument, taking sides only makes things worse. If your children learn that you will not enter their minor disagreements, they will have to learn to settle things between themselves.
9. Use the Active Listening technique to allow siblings to express their feelings.
When kids fight, parents often try to talk children out of their feelings by saying things like “Stop arguing with Tony, Sarah. You know you love your brother.” Instead, you could acknowledge the child’s feelings by saying, “Sounds like you’re pretty upset with Tony.” You might be surprised to see that this defuses the emotion and enables Tony to move on to something else.
10. Realize that younger children can be the aggressors. Don’t automatically rush to their defense.
11. Encourage your children to participate in activities that they truly enjoy.
Don’t expect them to always join activities that they must do together or where they will be competing against each other.
12. Do your best to offer each of your children equal amounts of praise and attention.
This is true if they are competing for your attention or if they are participating in a school or sports activity.
Family Therapy Can Foster Healthy Communication
Above all, stay positive. Dealing with sibling rivalry requires time and patience. Your role in promoting sibling harmony is to provide the conditions that foster unity and shape compatible relationships between your children, much like a counselor would do in family therapy.
If you’re dealing with sibling rivalry or other conflicts within your family, maybe it’s time to meet with a family therapist. Give us a call today at 832-559-2622, or click here to schedule an appointment online. You can have peace in your family again.