Sibling rivalry is far more common than most people would like to think. If truth be told, sibling rivalry actually begins even before the second child is born. With time, children continue to compete with each other over the simplest of things including toys and their parents’ attention.
Watching your kids fight all the time can get fairly frustrating as time goes by. To be honest, things can prove to be rather stressful if your household is packed full of conflict, even if it is between siblings. However, it's fairly normal for parents to find it hard to figure out whether they should ignore the fights or get involved in them. If you’re stuck in such a situation, here’s what you can do to help your kids get along better with each other and put an end to all those fights:
12 Friendship between siblings should be encouraged before birth
If you don’t want to deal with sibling rivalry later on in life, it's highly recommended for you to acquaint your older child with his about-to-arrive sibling before birth. For this, you should let him pat his sibling beneath your baby bump, get him to talk to his sibling and perhaps even show him a few pictures of a baby growing in mom’s tummy. While you're at it, get him to sit down and go through his baby photo album so he can be prepared for a replay of his childhood.
Your older one may also feel ignored when his newly arrived sibling gets lavished by guests and receives endless gifts. To prevent this from happening, you should get him a few gifts as well beforehand. If need be, let him play a bit with the newborns’ rattles as well and allow him to check out his siblings’ gifts too.
11 Hold both kids responsible for their behavior
In a majority of cases, both the kids are equally responsible for inappropriate behavior. For instance, one may tease the other beyond limits or call the other a name which would then lead to an endless battle of name-calling and teasing. Considering that both the kids are involved in such a case, it's best for you to hold them both accountable for their actions.
When you have children who are close in age or of the same gender, there's always going to be a bit of rivalry amidst them – and to be honest, it's fairly normal and natural. However, if you somehow treat your children differently, you will make things worse as the child you don’t pay much attention to will feel ignored. With the passage of time, the ignored child may end up developing feelings of hatred towards the other.
10 Stop playing ‘referee’ when they fight
No matter how much you want to put an end to their fights, it's best for you to stay away from it. As long as you don’t have a bullying situation at hand, you need to refrain from playing referee. With that, you should also try not to judge as to who is right and who is wrong when your kids start fighting.
Instead of playing referee between your kids, tell them that fighting isn’t acceptable in your house and there will be consequences for their bad behavior. What sort of consequences are we talking about? Well, to begin with, you could take away things like their cell phones, electronics, TV time and even video games along with anything else that is important to them. Apart from that, if you give your children time at home to do whatever they want, tell them that they're going to lose some of that time if they don’t stop fighting.
9 Stop making comparisons
Every single child out there is unique and different and that’s just how they feel too. This is the reason why children generally hate being compared to each other, even if it is their sibling. Because of this, it's best for you to refrain from making comparisons between your kids. Instead of making comparisons between them, each child in the family should be given his own level of expectations and goals that relate ONLY to him.
The biggest problem with making comparisons is that it may make your child feel inferior to his sibling. In the long run, this is just going to add to his feelings of rivalry and jealousy. Kids tend to have their respective characteristics and skills, which can tempt parents to compare them. No matter how natural it seems, don’t compare them and make things harder for your kids.
8 Have fun as a family
That’s right. Having fun as a family can go a long way in terms of keeping sibling rivalry at bay. No matter what you choose to do as a family, whether all of you watch a movie together, throw a ball or even play a board game, spending time together is going to help your kids have fun with each other without getting into a fight. The best part is that such joint activities will make it possible for your children to connect with each other, thereby relieving much of the tension that exists between them.
Also, in case your kids fight frequently, you should try to hold weekly family meetings in which the house rules can be repeated to them. Apart from that, these meetings will also give you the ability to review the steps you took previously to reduce conflicts. To reward your children for good behavior, plan out family-oriented activities with them.
7 Jealousy needs to be defused
It's necessary for you to take steps to downplay jealousy in case one of your children is envious of the other. To begin with, refrain from making a big deal out of it. Instead try saying something along the lines of, “So hey what if your brother did well in soccer? You did amazing in math, all by yourself.” This will go a long in way in terms of making your child realize his own potential and will additionally make him feel that his efforts are being appreciated.
Instead of confirming your child’s feelings of being a victim, you should praise all your children equally so that no one feels left out. This way, your children will experience your affection while being praised, thereby taking away any and all feelings of jealousy – all those fights and feelings of being victimized will be gone.
6 Set rules and inform your kids about consequences
You need to be fair and consistent in terms of setting rules for your children’s behavior. All inappropriate behavior needs to be discouraged instantly with an explanation as to why it isn’t allowed. Apart from that, things like yelling at each other, cursing and name-calling needs to be discouraged at all times and should have consequences as well.
While you are at it, all the kids involved in such behavior need to face consequences equally irrespective of whether they were provoked or were right or wrong.
5 Individualized approaches are necessary
Children have individual personalities with different interests and needs. For this reason, any approach that you take towards diffusing jealousy between them should be individualized as well. You need to bear in mind the fact that sibling rivalry at times tends to be triggered out of a need for parental attention, which is just what you should give them.
When you give individual attention to your kids and their personal needs, you will be able to spend quality time with each child, which will in turn prevent them from fighting for your attention. If you have a nerdy child, shop for books with him, and play with the kid who likes sports.
4 Be a facilitator when they fight
To put an end to their rivalry, it is important for you to get your kids on the same team. For this purpose, it's necessary for you to help facilitate and guide them towards resolution of their own fights.
In order to do so, you need to teach your kids how to express the feelings or the instincts that instigated the fight to begin with. Ask both your children the same questions till the time that a resolution takes place. For instance, you can ask them both why they are angry or ask them both for solutions to the problem between them.
3 Be a good role model
As a parent, it is vital for you to role model how problems and disagreements need to be resolved in a respectful and non-aggressive manner. This is just what is needed to set the best, most appealing example for your children.
While you’re having dinner, playing a board game or watching TV, there will be many opportunities for you to set examples of how family time should be spent peacefully and issues resolved in the same manner. Treat each family member with respect. Settle disputes with fairness and remember that your own behavior is the best teacher of all.
2 Say no to all sorts of physical aggression
You need to make your kids understand that physical aggression including things like biting, pushing, hitting and other attacks are all considered abuse and that these can escalate rather quickly and end up in actual injury. Tell them that actions and behavior such as these are not acceptable in healthy families such as yours. With that, tell them about other non-physical methods of tackling disagreements.
1 Punishments should remain private
In case a spat between your kids has gone so far that it deserve punishment, it's best for you to refrain from making the conversation public. Going public with punishments is only going to shame a child in front of his siblings and will eventually create further hatred between them. This is the time to teach a lesson — not make an announcement that will only make your child feel ashamed.