Sibling rivalry is something that happens quite often in a family with two or more kids. Usually, it’s just one of the stages of growing up, but sometimes it can be really destructive for family relationships. Let’s make it clear right from the start: you can’t stop the sibling rivalry completely. But as a parent, you can turn the conflict that can be quite traumatic for your kids to some positive experience.
Common reasons of sibling rivalry
– Kids discover their identity and therefore, feel the necessity to be independent of other family members.
– Differences in tempers, when one of the kids is reserved, introverted and passive while the other one is open, extroverted and active.
– Kids feel they don’t get enough attention from parents and take it as a major unfairness. This feeling may be especially acute if one of the kids is sick, disabled or has some other issue that demands his parents’ attention.
– Children may think that some benefits are distributed unfairly. For example, an older brother gets more freedom or a younger one gets fewer responsibilities.
– Kids just haven’t yet learned the correct and peaceful ways of settling conflicts.
– Boredom, hunger, fatigue, family conflicts, aggression, adverse events (i.e. divorce), financial issues, etc. may also lead to rivalry.
But regardless of the reasons that cause sibling rivalry, conflicts and fighting lead to a lot of stress and misery in a family. In case you are at a loss and don’t know how to react, here are some useful tips for you that may alleviate the situation.
How can you deal with sibling rivalry?
– If possible, don’t interfere with a conflict; let your kids handle their disagreements on their own.
– In case you have to interfere because there’s an obvious danger of violence, do it as early as possible and separate your kids while they are still calm enough to talk about what happened.
– Never yell at the kids who have already got involved into the conflict — this will only escalate the aggression.
– Never put the whole blame on someone and don’t try to find out “who started it first”: every kid who takes part in a conflict must be responsible for it.
– Don’t try to defend one of the kids.
– Don’t think that younger kids are always victims. They are actually no less capable of provoking their older siblings.
Though parents can’t always prevent sibling rivalry, there are some measures you can take to make your kids stop fighting and settle their disagreements in a more productive way.
– Talk to each one of your kids separately every day and let him know you love him. Spend just 10 minutes a day to assure your children that you care and are really interested in what is happening in their lives.
– Organize regular events dedicated to family bonding. At least once a day have family dinners, no TV included. Take part in family games and trips. All this will make your family ties so much stronger and also help your kids deal with their issues in a more constructive way. Just make sure that all of your kids are really interested in these events so that they don’t feel you make them take part in this for the sake of the other sibling.
– Learn to appreciate your kids’ personalities and don’t compare them to their brothers or sisters.
– Set the rules for all the family meetings that prohibit arguments, yelling and fighting. Explain what kind of consequences all of your kids will face in case they break the rules, regardless of who starts a conflict. Remind your kids they are and will always be a part of your family, and that you love each one of them.
– Help your kids to understand that fairness and equality are not always the same thing. While a teenager may have more freedom, he will at the same time have more responsibilities. A sick child gets more attention because he needs help and support.
– Let each one of your kids have some personal time and a personal nook (a room, if possible) and personal things they don’t have to share with others.
– If your kids tend to fight over who is going to watch TV or play a computer game, set up a schedule so that each of them has his personal time with the things he likes. And best of all, let them reach an agreement on their own; you just guide them if necessary. Let them know that if they keep fighting over things like that, they will have no TV or computer time at all. Giving a personal TV or a computer to each kid is not the best decision. This won’t teach them how to compromise and may lead to their complete estrangement (sitting in one’s own rooms all day long without communicating to each other won’t make your family bonding stronger).
– Be a role model. When angry, don’t yell, throw things or abuse anyone.
In case rivalry causes serious issues in your family that negatively affect one of its members or all of you, both physically and emotionally, see a professional psychologist. You can also get some professional consultation online.