Sibling Rivalry - Don't Let it Be the Norm in Your Home

I hear parents talking about their kids fighting like its a right of passage, a badge of honor, something that is natural, something to be proud of. They are more concerned about how the fighting effects them instead of how it is effecting the sibling’s relationship. If parents truly want their children to get along and be lifelong friends then it is up to them to ensure it happens. It comes down to the parent to figure out why their children can't get along and that takes effort, time, communication, conflict management, and a bit of psychology.

If a child is about to become a sibling, now is the time to start educating them on the realities of being a big brother or sister. Forget the fluff, after all, the baby won't be a playmate for awhile and will take a lot of mommy's attention and energy for the first few months. You need to figure out ways that the older child can help care for the new baby by giving them responsibility and communicate your expectations. As an older sibling they are responsible for helping care for and teach the younger sibling. Above all though, make sure you make time for the older sibling. Special mommy and son/daughter time will go a long way to help quench feelings of resentment. Elicit your spouse to step up and take on a more involved role with the older child, father and son/daughter time will help them develop a stronger relationship and make the older child feel special because they can do stuff the baby can't. Ask grandparents and friends to take an active interest in the older child and not just coo over the baby. Have the older child introduce his/her new sibling to friends and family thereby ensuring he/she feels like part of the process. Building a close sibling relationship starts at conception and by involving the older child with a responsible role.

If your children are a little older make sure you don't step in between them too much. It's always tempting to solve their fights or champion the one you see as being the underdog. When younger children start to fight just separate them, it’s probably time for them to have some alone time anyway. If they are fighting over a toy, just take the toy away - if they can't share it then neither gets it. By not taking one child's side over the other you ensure that both are treated equal - favoritism or perceived favoritism is the root of sibling rivalry. Once separated young children usually settle down and are ready to play again. You don't have to put them on time out and punish them - just send them to their corners or rooms to cool off and play by themselves for a little while. They will come out and start playing again on their own when they are ready. Younger children learn from natural consequences rather than elaborate teaching concepts like time outs to solve conflict.

When kids are older and can communicate how they feel or what they think, its time for the parents to listen. If they are fighting, separate them into separate rooms, give them time to calm down and then talk with each of them one on one. Just make sure that you aren't always talking to one child first all the time. Listen to what each of them says and ask them leading questions to help them see things from the other child's perspective. Ask questions to help them see how they contributed to the problem and how they can solve the issue. Don't let them get away with self-pity, which leads to unrealistic and untrue conclusions. Call them on lies and help them to understand reality. As children get older parents can utilize communication skills to put each child into each other’s shoes and come up with their own solutions.

Sibling rivalry is not a necessary right of passage. Families can find harmony in each other if they listen and find common ground. Discipline has its place in raising children but it doesn’t belong as a solution to sibling rivalry. Bring children closer by increasing their responsibility for each other, encouraging communication, focusing on common interests and celebrating differences. I believe that with a little work and some communication any family can avoid sibling rivalry and develop close sibling bonds.

1 comment:

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