Sibling Rivalry: Common and Normal?
Does it ever feel like your kids just CANNOT get along?
Sibling rivalry is common in ALL families with more than one child and happens at every age. While it may be comforting to know that sibling rivalry is typical, it certainly doesn’t make it any easier to manage. Instead of getting caught in the middle of their squabbles, learn ways to reduce their rivalry before it begins with these simple steps!
Ditch the comparisons and promote uniqueness.
Each kid is different and has different strengths and skill sets. Embrace them! While one of your kids may be athletically talented, your other kid may be gifted in math. or the arts. Recognizing their individual strengths and encouraging them to follow their passions boosts self-esteem and reduces the need to be “better” than their siblings.
When you foster unique strengths and talents, you allow your kids to grow and succeed in their strongest areas. This helps children strive to achieve their own individual goals, while limiting the need to compare one child to their sibling.
Spend quality time with each of your kids.
Kids often fight to gain the attention of their parents. With a house full of siblings, it is easy to feel “lost in the shuffle” of the busy routines and activities. This lends way to attention-seeking behaviors, both positive and negative. Remember, even negative attention is better than no attention at all.
Take 15-20 minutes each day to spend quality time with each of your kids. Whether it’s reading a book together or playing a game of catch, your kids will feel loved and will learn that they do not need to fight to get your attention.
Take a step back.
Don’t jump in to save the day! When you hear a fight break out between your kids, give them a chance to settle things on their own. Resolving conflict is an important life skill. Whenever possible, keep yourself busy with something else while they attempt to come to an agreement. This will give them an opportunity for valuable learning, while simultaneously removing the attention they may be seeking from fighting.
Demonstrate positive problem-solving skills.
When your kids are unable to resolve the conflict on their own and the disagreement escalates, it’s time to step in. Give each child a few minutes to cool down. Then, provide them with helpful strategies, such deep breathing, counting to 10, or going to their room to lie down with a book or their favorite stuffed animal. When they are calm and ready to talk, listen to each of them one at a time and encourage the use of “I” statements, rather than blaming the sibling with “You did _________” statements. Using I statements encourages them to tell their version of the story from their point of view. They can’t shift the blame onto their sibling and it promotes accountability for their actions. Then, without taking sides, ask your kids to come up with solutions and compromises to their problem. If needed, include a few solutions of your own and help them come to an agreement that works for everyone.
You may not be able to eliminate the rivalry permanently, but by following these simple guidelines you can be sure to reduce its frequency for a more peaceful home environment.