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How can I help prevent sibiling rivalry?

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For parents and caregivers with more than one child, sibling rivalry can often feel like daily wars on the home front. From arguing over what television show to watch to not sharing toys, there are many things can set off a battle of wills between two or more children. When you factor in all the time most families have spent together at home during the coronavirus pandemic, most adults in the house may be feeling like exhausted referees.

In understanding sibling rivalry, it’s important to remember that most children are not fighting over a toy or the last piece of pizza as much as they are responding to underlying causes like birth order and other family dynamics. Children also fight for the attention of their parents and caregivers, and acting out in little disagreements is a way children express their jealousy or misunderstanding.

To help make the home environment a little more peaceful between arguing siblings, here are some helpful tips that can hopefully create some well-deserved peace and quiet:

Accept that sibling rivalry is normal

Age differences or the fact that children may have different temperaments are things that simply cannot change—therefore you should realize and accept that sibling rivalry is a very natural occurrence that can last into adulthood. Being aware that this is a normal dynamic is a way to deal with it.

Keep your cool

By paying attention to the triggers that cause sibling rivalry—such as not sharing new toys—you can help monitor the situation and stop little fights before they begin. Adults should always keep their cool and stay in control when little outbursts begin so kids will model their behavior after yours.

Avoid comparison or competition

One of the best ways to avoid sibling rivalry is to avoid comparing your children or having them compete against one another. Instead, try to create a feeling of cooperation and compromise—where everyone is on equal footing and each child is given attention for their gifts or traits. Also, be sure to spend alone time with each child, allowing them to do their favorite things, such as reading books together or doing fun outdoor games in the yard. Finally, make sure each child gets his or her alone time from sibling(s), promoting independence and allowing them to have their own space. 

Together time

To help ease the tension and fights between your children, parents and caregivers should encourage more family unity with things like family dinners, board games, or playing fun outdoor games. These are ways for children to have fun together with bonding activities, especially if a parent or caregiver is right there in the mix. They will appreciate their shared time with the important adults in their life and learn that everyone has more fun when they learn to play well as a family unit.

Treats kids fairly—but not necessarily equally

Parents and caregivers should always treat every child in a fair way, but that doesn’t always mean equally or in the same manner. For example, punishments and rewards should be tailored to an individual child’s needs or behavior. You also don’t have to give a child the same toy or treat and instead should give each one something that is best suited for their individual taste or age-appropriate need.

Intervention

Of course, there will be times when some sibling rivalries and arguments will need to be refereed. Here are three ways to do so in a positive way:

  1. First, be an impartial judge. Parents and caregivers are not always right there when a fight begins, so it often comes down to finger pointing between the two children. Instead of blaming one or the other, take time to focus on who played what role in the fight and try to help both children understand it takes two little people to argue.
  2. Take time to listen. When breaking up a fight, take time to listen to both sides and try to respect the feelings of both children. Of course, bad behavior (like hitting) or negative emotions (like name calling) should never be excused, but a child may alter their behavior in the future if he or she feels like an adult is listening to them. It can also be an opportunity to reinforce that such bad behavior is disrespectful to everyone involved and that it’s the worst way to solve any sort of dispute. Additionally, you could gather everyone for a family meeting so everyone can give their side of the story and you, as a parent or caregiver, can establish a firm set of family rules in how to handle conflict in the future.
  3. Teach a lesson. To help your children avoid disputes, help them learn problem-solving skills like compromise, sharing or, how they may have to approach a future dispute in a more constructive and positive way.

By ABC Quality Team on August 24, 2021