7 tips on dealing with sibling rivalry

While some siblings may become the best of friends with each other, it is fairly common for most siblings to fight. To be honest, at times sibling rivalry begins even before the second child is born and continues as the children grow and compete with each other for things like their parents’ attention and toys. As your kids reach different stages of development, their needs continue to evolve and may have a significant impact on the ways in which they relate to one another.

For a majority of parents out there, it can get rather frustrating to watch their kids fight with one another all the time. If anything, a household packed full of conflict can prove to be extremely stressful for the entire family. Yet, often parents find it hard to stop the fighting and remain clueless as to whether they should get involved or not. If this is the sort of situation you are in, there are quite a few steps that you can take to promote peace in your household and help your kids get along with each other. No matter how difficult the situation, here are a few tips that will help you deal with sibling rivalry:

7 Both kids need to be held responsible for their behavior

In most cases of sibling rivalry, both the kids are almost equally responsible for the behavior. One child may start teasing the other or call the other a name, thereby triggering a volley of name-calling and teasing. Both of your kids particularly need to be held accountable when you know that there’s a bit of equity in the behavior being conducted and in who is triggering it.

Now there are quite a few things that you can do to make both the kids feel equally accountable for their fights. For instance, you can do something like setting up a rule in your house that if any of your children start fighting with each other, your entire family is going to hit the bed half an hour early at night – and nobody will get to have dessert. It doesn’t matter which of the kids is at fault, who started the fight or who started teasing the other first – everyone will face the consequences in case a fight starts. When there’s a fight, hold both your kids accountable for the simple reason that it takes to tango. Say something to them like, “Both of you know the rules around here – nobody is allowed to fight. Now go to your room for ten minutes after which we will talk about it”.

Equal treatment is necessary

When there are children who are close in age or of the same gender in a house, sibling rivalry amidst them is fairly normal. If you treat your kids differently, there is a good chance that you will make things worse as the child you don’t pay much attention to will feel ignored.

6 Initiate friendship before birth

To prevent yourself from having to deal with sibling rivalry later in life, it is highly recommended for you to get your older child acquainted with the new baby before birth. Give your child the opportunity to see a few pictures of a baby growing in mommy’s tummy. Allow him to pat his sibling beneath the bulge, encourage him to talk to the baby and even let him feel the baby kick you. Apart from all that, make your kid sit down and go through his baby photo album with him so he may know how he looked right after birth and while coming home so he can be prepared for a replay of his childhood.

When your newborn is lavished by gifts and attention by visitors, there is a good chance that your older child will start feeling ignored. To prevent him from feeling this way, it is best for you to keep a few small gifts in reserve for him too, which you can present to him at such a time. Let him unwrap the baby gifts along with his own and allow him to test the newborn’s rattles too. In all honesty, just give him a job in the family organization to ensure his happiness. Tell him he’s “mommy’s helper” so he can understand his importance.

Help him learn a few skills

When you assign a ‘job’ to your older child, he will start feeling responsible and will not feel as ‘apprehensive’ towards his sibling. The best part is that your child will feel very important and may even pick up a few house keeping skills that will prove helpful in the long run.

5 Never compare

Each child is different and unique and they feel exactly so – “I am unique”. For this reason, children resent being compared to other kids even if they are their siblings, which is a major reason why you should never make comparisons between your kids. Instead of comparing your children, each child in the family should be given his own levels of expectations and goals that relate ONLY to him.

One of the best means of putting sibling rivalry and jealousy to an end is for parents to stay focused on each child’s behavior without ever carrying out a comparison between siblings. Making a comparison may end up with your child feeling somewhat inferior, thereby triggering even more intense feelings of jealousy and rivalry in him. Yes, it can be difficult to avoid comparing children, but in the long run, it is definitely worth the effort and is one of the most important steps a parent can take to successfully bring up siblings. Children have their respective characteristics and skills, which can tempt parent to compare them. No matter how natural it seems, don’t compare them and make things harder for your kids.

How do I avoid making comparisons?

The best thing you can do to avoid making comparisons is to identify and describe a child’s particular personality or behavior instead of making reference to his sibling. For instance, just describe the things that you like, don’t like, or what needs to be done without comparing your kids with one another. If you can manage to do this, you will not have to worry about dealing with sibling fights and feelings of jealousy.

4 Don’t become a referee when your kids start fighting

Yes, I know you want to get in the middle of your kids’ fights and put an end to the bickering, but you shouldn’t. So what do you need to do to stop yourself from doing it? Well, as long as you don’t have a bullying situation at hand, don’t play referee. In such a situation, there is no need for you to start judging who’s right and who’s wrong. Also, you should stop yourself from trying to decide which kid of yours is the worst. Instead, you need to address your kids and say something like, “Fighting isn’t allowed in this house and there will be consequences of your bad behavior. I want you two to learn to walk away from each other. And if you are not willing to listen to me, then I will hold both of you responsible for the consequence”.

So what consequences are we talking about here? To be honest, there are many things that you can use for this purpose including cellphones, electronics, TV time and even video games along with anything else that is important to your kids. Also, if you give your children time at home to do whatever they want, tell them that they are going to lost some of that time if they keep fighting. Tell them, for instance, that they’ve just lost half an hour of their free time because they don’t know how to get along with each other.

Consider setting up a bickering table

If bickering is an issue in your house, then it is highly recommended for you to set up a bickering table for your kids. Once done, schedule time each night for your kids to sit down and argue as much as they want to with each other; you’ll be astonished at how quickly your kids will stop those petty fights of theirs. 

3 Defuse jealousy

If you find one of your children being envious of his sibling, it is highly recommended for you to take steps to downplay it. To begin with, there is no need at all for you to make a big deal out of it. Instead, say something like, “Well, you know, it’s natural for humans to feel jealous at times. Yes, Greg did well in soccer, but you did your math homework all by yourself too and I know how hard it was!” This way, you will point out your children’s good characteristics and make each of them feel equally special. Just make sure that you mention concrete things that you’ve actually seen and heard them do, and tell each child just how valuable he and his efforts are to you.

At times, one of your kids may get jealous of his siblings and start feeling as if he is a victim. When this happens, you may give him a bit more attention, irrespective of whether he is the kid who gets teased often or is the one who does the teasing. However, it is best for you to stop yourself from shining a light on it, because it will ultimately reward your child’s sense of victimhood.

What else should I do?

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.  

2 Have fun as a family

In order to keep sibling rivalry at bay, it is vital for you to have as much fun as possible as a family. Irrespective of whether you all get together to throw a ball, watch a movie or even play a board game, doing things as a family will help you establish a peaceful means of letting your kids have fun with each other. 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. You will also be able to bond with them as you will be involved in the activities too. Remember, most kids fight for parental attention, and having fun family activities can easily reduce the stress involved.

Like many children out there, your kids may squabble over the same things such as dibs on the TV remote or video games. To get your kids to behave, it is best for you to post a schedule showing which one of your children will ‘own’ a particular item during specific times and days of the week. If they continue fighting, just take away the ‘prize’ altogether.

Hold family meetings

If your kids start fighting way too often, it is best for you to hold weekly family meetings so as to repeat the house rules to them. Not only will this allow you to remind them of the rules about fighting, you will also be able to review the steps you took previously to reduce conflicts. To reward your children for good behavior, plan out family-oriented activities with them.

1 Set rules and tell your kids about consequences

If you can set rules about your children’s behavior in a fair and consistent manner, you can rest-assured that they will remain grounded. As far as inappropriate behavior goes, it is vital for you to discourage instantly and out rightly following which you should tell them why they are being prohibited. Things like yelling at each other, cursing and name-calling needs to be discouraged at all times and should have consequences as well. All the kids involved should face the consequences irrespective of whether they were provoked or were right or wrong.

Also, the approach you take towards your kids needs to be individualized as children have different personalities with different needs and interests. You need to bear in mind the fact that sibling rivalry at times tends to be trigger out of a need for parental attention, which is just what you should give them. By giving individual attention to the personal needs of your kids, it will also be possible for you 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.

The value of empathy

If you can get your children to understand the value of empathy, they will surely learn how to get along well in society. With this understanding will come the ability to put themselves in someone else’s shoes, thereby making it possible for them to share better relationships with their siblings at the moment and other individuals later on in life.

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