8 Ways to Reduce Sibling Rivalry
You are overjoyed to have two kids. You are filled to the brim with love and feel like your family is now complete. But from the moment you bring baby home, and maybe even before, your older child’s jealousy kicks into high gear. It will come in swings, as most moods do, some days & moments heavier than others, but it will always be there and will most likely never fully go away. Add on to that, the jealousy that will ensue when the younger child gets a little older as well. This is the reality that we as parents have to deal with when you have more than one child – sibling rivalry.
Any family with more than one child will have plenty of stories to share about their kids breaking out into fights, calling each other names, and stealing each other’s toys.
Sibling rivalry is very common as siblings tend to be very competitive with each other, after all they are both vying for the same attention, approval and sympathy from you, their parents.
Layered onto that, is the issue with differing personalities, interests and intellects that are evolving, making it sometimes very difficult to relate to one another. Add yet another layer of competition when children of different ages may be given different privileges as well.
A stressful and chaotic, or tense home environment also promotes conflict among siblings. After all, we as parents are to set the mood for our children. If they feel tension or see us bickering or fighting, they will follow suit.
The good news is here are some ways to reduce sibling rivalry in the home:
1. Encourage each child’s individuality, and don’t make comparisons. Play up their strengths, what are they best at and what do they enjoy doing? One may enjoy painting while the other may prefer to do a puzzle. “You are such an amazing artist! And you are so great at that puzzle! Nice work guys!” This also helps to give them some time apart as well, which is sometimes much needed.
2. Encourage them to help each other out, instead of you stepping in. For example, your older child may be able to help your younger child with a task, like setting the table or wiping up a spill, instead of you doing it for them. By encouraging them to work together it helps promote cooperation over competition.
3. To go along with that, encourage them to try to resolve their differences on their own. Sometimes it’s better not to get involved.
4. Look for patterns that lead up to controversy and try to come up with a plan of action to avoid them next time. For example, if you notice your children always fight over what TV show to watch, have a schedule that they agree to beforehand. One child chooses a show now and then after dinner the other child gets to choose. Rotate also who gets to choose first and second.
5. Teach and promote empathy. Encourage them to put themselves in each other’s shoes and to try and see things from a different perspective.
6. Make sure to listen to both sides. Give them a chance to calm down first, and have each one tell their side of the story.
7. Talk them through issues of fairness and equality when they come up. It’s inevitable that you’ll hear one child complain that something is unfair, like the fact that their older sibling is allowed to stay up later. Explain to them that younger children need more sleep, and that soon they too will be allowed to stay up later; it’s something to look forward to! In the meantime, maybe they can do something special like have an after dinner treat, for example.
8. Promote a stress-free home. Try not to raise your voice when speaking to your kids or your spouse; practice deep breathing or take a time out for yourself if you find yourself getting to that point. Light candles or aromatherapy to help reduce tension as well; lavender and rose are great options for this.
Even if you do everything right, however, chances are your children will still get into conflicts with each other, but this isn’t necessarily a bad thing. By approaching the issue the right way, you can help them learn how to deal with power struggles, negotiate their way through conflict and resolve their differences. You’ll also be helping them learn how to stand up for themselves without resorting to aggression. These are all important lessons for any child to learn, and it’s your involvement as their parents that can make all the difference.