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How to Deal with Sibling Rivalry

We dream of being able to have kids who get along graciously every day, being kind to each other and sharing toys, but that just isn’t the reality. If you have a sibling, then chances are you have been there before – squabbling with your brother and/or sister over something meaningless and sometimes petty. If you’re going through it now with your children, then you totally know how your parents felt! Sibling rivalry seems to be inevitable, but there are ways to help your children overcome this and to help you cope at the same time.

Why siblings fight

There are many reasons why siblings just would not get along, but it is important to know that it is usually a natural part of growing up with a brother or sister. If both are your children are under the age of four, this can be sibling rivalry at its worst. This is because both children are heavily reliant on parents and sharing that attention can be an unbearable thought.

If your children are over the age of four, the rivalry seems to stem from competitiveness, especially if the children are around ages 8 to 12 and those who have similar interests. It will come down to who can do what better.

If you have children who are far apart in age, then that opens up a whole new can of worms! Older children can feel “threatened” by the younger child who may demonstrate skills the other did not have. This can lead to embarrassment, not feeling good enough, or just downright being shown up by the younger sibling, which causes the older one to act up. This can lead to the younger sibling doing the same in defense. The younger child may get jealous of all the privileges the older child gets too.

What can be done about it

Here are some tips that can help diffuse the sibling rivalry situation that may be going on in your house:

Start before birth – Before your second child is born, do your best to get the soon-to-be older sibling involved. Let them pat mommy’s belly and feel the baby kick. Let them talk to the baby. Use this time to go through what everything was like when they were a baby. Go through baby books and pictures and talk about the funny and even not-so-funny stories about when they were a baby. Your child should have a better understanding of what to expect when little brother or sister is born, without feeling over-jealous about the attention the baby is getting.

Let the older child help in the care of the younger – This can help strengthen the bond between siblings. Let the older child help feed and change the younger one. Let them choose the toys to play with together. You should always also let your older child know how proud you are of them for helping out. Let them know how important they are.

Never compare – Even if comparisons are not made in a negative way, children can interpret them as such. For this reason, you should never compare your children in front of them.

Let each child have their own area – It is important that children have their own space. If they share a bedroom, make sure there is a designated space for their things, apart from the ones that are shared.

Use these moments to teach empathy – Try to get siblings to see things from another’s perspective and to live by the golden rule: “Treat others the way you would like to be treated.” Ask your child how they think the other would react if they did something negative to them and how it would make them feel. Lack of empathy is what contributes to adult sibling rivalry.

Don’t discipline in front of each other – Receiving punishment, either a good talking to or being sat in a corner in time out, is bad enough for a child. Having it done in front of a sibling can be ruthless, especially if it gives them fuel to tease them for it. Make sure the other child stays away from the one being disciplined and gets on doing his own thing.

Encourage them to work it out themselves but let them know violence is not tolerated – It is ideal to let your kids work out problems for themselves, but this should be done through talking. This may be easier for older children to understand as they can communicate better with each other. You should always intervene if the children start to get violent.

What sort of things do you put in place to help stop the arguments between children?


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