The Challenges of Sibling Rivalry
Sibling rivalry is something that every child has to deal with at some point. And while it can seem like a never-ending problem, kids can learn to handle their differences and grow to respect each other over time.
The key is to recognize it for what it is – and then use it as a teaching opportunity. Take these tips to heart and manage your children’s sibling disputes in a healthy manner that will help them grow up to be respectful, responsible adults.
1. Encourage Them to Get Specific
Sibling rivalry is a natural part of growing up. It helps children figure out their own identities and strengths, psychologist Laura Vivona told HuffPost Parents.
But too much sibling competition can have a negative impact on mental health, and in some cases, lead to depression or anxiety.
As a parent, you can help your kids navigate these feelings by encouraging them to get specific about their feelings. Explain why they feel the way they do and give them strategies to manage their frustrations.
You also want to steer your kids toward activities that are cooperative. This will make them less likely to engage in aggressive bickering or one-sided aggression.
2. Make it Fair
Sibling rivalry is a common problem, and it can happen at all ages. There is no magic age when rivalry disappears, but there are things you can do to help manage it.
One of the most effective things you can do is teach your children to be fair and equitable. This means teaching them that just because something is different doesn’t mean it’s not fair.
You can also teach them that their siblings deserve their fair share of attention and discipline, too. This will help them understand that they shouldn’t be resentful when one child gets more of the spotlight or privileges than another.
The main cause of sibling rivalry is based on kids seeing unfair treatment. This can be a result of unequal amounts of attention, degrees of responsiveness, and severity of discipline.
3. Set Limits
Sibling rivalry is an inevitable part of raising kids. But don’t let it get you down!
While some families do get along beautifully, there’s usually a conflict between siblings. It may be about things like attention, fairness, and individual identity.
It can also be triggered by a new baby in the family or when one child is ill. In these cases, children need to be reminded that they are loved and important.
In addition to setting limits, parents can help their children learn to work out conflicts in an age-appropriate way. Encourage them to use a few problem-solving tools, including taking turns choosing what to watch or agreeing on a TV show they both enjoy.
4. Be Consistent
When a conflict occurs between siblings, be consistent with your response. Instead of slamming doors, screaming matches, and silent treatment, respond with calm, assertive, and thoughtful responses.
If your children see you taking sides during a conflict, it can be tough for them to learn how to resolve disputes on their own. This can cause them to resent their siblings and develop negative feelings about themselves, which may lead to unhealthy relationships in the future.
If your children are experiencing a sibling rivalry, use it as an opportunity to teach them important life skills such as emotional regulation, problem-solving, and conflict resolution. It can also help them avoid resentment and aggression toward their siblings as they grow older.
5. Take Time-Outs
Sibling rivalry is a normal part of childhood, but it can lead to unhealthy relationships in the future. Parents can help minimize the impact of sibling rivalry by understanding its causes and fostering positive interactions between siblings.
One common cause of sibling rivalry is siblings feeling that they have different strengths and interests. This can be a result of a family environment that focuses on the talents and abilities of one child rather than the strengths of another.
Children may also fight because they want to get attention from their siblings. While it is understandable that children want to seek attention, they often are not aware of the consequences of negative interaction.
Time-outs can be an effective tool to use when children are fighting. However, they must be used consistently and thoughtfully. They should not be used as a substitute for yelling or spanking. Rather, they should be used as a tool to teach kids how to deal with their emotions.
6. Give Them Problem-solving Tools
One way to help your child develop problem-solving skills is by giving them problem-solving toys. Shape sorters, puzzles, and board games give kids the chance to think critically and solve problems in a fun way.
You can also give them problem-solving tools in the form of books. Reading books that emphasize problem-solving can help kids learn how to approach problems in a creative way.
You can also provide them with real-life examples of problem-solving by talking to them about how you approach a problem and how you go about finding a solution.
Finally, you can encourage them to keep a journal to record their problem-solving successes, so they can look back and reflect on their progress.
7. Set up Regular Family Meetings
Family meetings help everyone feel like they’re part of a team and make sure that important decisions get made. They also allow children to express their feelings and give feedback about issues that may affect them.
Set up a regular meeting time at least once a week. It’s especially helpful if you can schedule it on the same day every week.
Keep the meetings short and try to keep the tone upbeat. Ask each member to state his or her perspective about the issue without interruption and without judgment.
If one person, usually the parent, tends to monopolize the conversation, try to let other members speak too.
Whenever possible, post a list of topic ideas on the fridge or in some other common household spot. This way, everyone can jot their thoughts down and bring them to the meeting.
The more your children know they have a voice in decision-making, the more likely they will be to listen and be open to your suggestions. Plus, they’ll feel better about themselves and the decisions they make in the process!
8. Be Patient
Sibling rivalry is a normal part of childhood. While it may be frustrating for parents, siblings can learn important life skills in the process of conflict resolution.
Most children will fight and argue with each other at some point in their lives, though this behavior will usually resolve itself as they grow older. However, when these squabbles are persistent and escalate, it’s time to intervene.
The main reason for sibling rivalry is that a child feels they must compete with their sibling for the attention of their parent. This is often manifested as a form of favoritism, but it can also take the form of physical aggression or cruel manipulation.
Other situations that can intensify sibling rivalry include transitional times, such as a new baby or an unexpected move to another house. Try to nip these tensions in the bud by planning family activities and schedules ahead of time.
9. Parent by Example
Sibling rivalry can be a normal part of growing up. However, it can be a source of frustration for parents who are trying to build close relationships between their children.
Often, sibling rivalry develops when one child feels he or she isn’t getting enough attention from the family. This can happen when one child feels left out of the decision-making process or not favored when a favorite activity or toy is being given away.
The key is to focus on each child’s unique needs and interests when resolving conflicts.
The best way to do this is by modeling positive problem-solving skills and responding to disagreements in a calm, rational way. This will help your kids learn to handle their own squabbles and reduce the likelihood of future conflicts.