Sibling rivalry is bound to happen at one time or another. Why does it happen and how can you keep it under control?
If you have many kids, hearing them bickering over a toy or having a fit because the other one looked at them is probably part of your daily routine. Sibling rivalry is bound to happen at one time or another. Why does it happen and how can you keep it under control?
The Reasons Why
Various factors can cause sibling rivalry.
Children are separate individuals and have different temperaments and needs. With that in mind, kids close in age or of the same sex are more likely to compete with one another.
Children want attention from their parents, and if they feel that their relationship with them is in jeopardy (from their point of view), they act out. That can happen when a new baby arrives, and they believe the baby gets preferential treatment. A middle child often acts out because they feel they do not get the same attention as their older or younger sibling. Kids in a blended family can also feel the need to compete for their parent’s attention.
Tired, bored, hungry or stressed children are more likely to bicker with each other.
The example of the parents as role models must not be taken lightly. How they resolve disagreements and problems influences greatly the way their children solve their own problems.
How to Stay in Control
So when all hell breaks loose, how can you stay in control?
First, every child is unique and has different interests. They should each have alone time to do what they like, or play with friends without having their sibling tagging along. You should also reserve some one-on-one time with each child to do activities that they love.
Never compare one child to another, and do not have them compete with one another. When you want them to get ready for bed, instead of having them race each other, have them race the clock.
Set ground rules and ask your kids’ input for the consequences when they do not respect them. The rules should be basic like “no hitting” and “no name calling,” and the consequences can be as simple as “If you put your sibling down, you have to say three nice things to him or her.”
When possible, encourage your kids to resolve their problem themselves. Help them by solving the issue with them, not for them. If necessary, give them a cool-off period before they talk it out.
When you have to intervene, stay neutral. If a behavior needs to be discussed with one kid, do so privately, not in front of their sibling. If you are not present when the fight starts, you cannot judge from the sayings of one or the other. Since it takes two to pick a fight, have them both face the consequences by having them do a chore they do not like.
If your kids are in the habit of fighting over a toy or a video game, make a schedule of who gets it when. If they still squabble over it, confiscate it.
Listen to your kids when they need to talk or vent about their siblings. Like adults, sometimes they just need to talk to someone about it. You can then help them put things into perspective.
Compliment and reward your children when they help each other and play peacefully together.
Have regular family meetings where each can take a turn talking without being interrupted, and everyone has to listen. Every family member can say what they feel without putting anyone down. You can then find solutions together, as a family.
Finally, have fun as a family. Fun activities create moments and pleasant memories that help your kids work as a team.
Things won’t change overnight so be patient. Nobody’s perfect, but with time and guidance, your kids will eventually learn to get over their sibling rivalry and be able to live peacefully together—most of the time.