Sibling Rivalry and What You can do as a Parent?
If you are a parent of more than one child, odds are that you have uttered this sentence enough number of times. As they say, having one child makes you a parent; having two turns you into a referee. From blaming and name-calling to physical fights, you would have seen it all. While some amount of sibling rivalry is to be expected, a lot, however, also depends upon how you tackle the situation. Here are some aspects to remember:
Ditch the comparisons
There is no denying the fact that each child is unique with his or her own set of strengths. Making comparisons between children and labeling them, goes a long way in impacting their self-esteem as also leads to sibling rivalry. What we also inadvertently land up doing by labeling children is to box them into roles that they may not like themselves. It is best, therefore, to create an atmosphere of teamwork where siblings root for each other’s success rather than compete amongst themselves for your approval.
Be fully present
Often fights are also a means to get your attention, even if negative. It is imperative therefore that you spend enough time with the kids. That really means being fully present; a time where you aren’t distracted by that ping on the social media, or worry about answering that work email. It is this positive attention given to each child that will go a long way in them not having to resort to sibling wars to get your negative attention.
Conflict resolution skills
It is extremely important to endow the children with conflict resolution skills so that they can work out the differences whenever they occur. Teaching them effective anger management skills for one will be a great enabler. I- messaging is another tool that you can endow them with. Each time that they encounter conflict, they could express how they feel by using an I- statement; I feel bad when you call me names because….. This will teach the child an appropriate way to express his or her emotions that will also be well accepted by the other person.
Do not always expect the eldest to know better
Most parents are guilty of perpetually telling the elder child to adjust because he or she is elder of the two! The fact is that this will only increase resentment in the elder child. Instead, it will also help to teach the younger sibling to ask for permission before taking the elder one’s possessions.
Be a role model
Children learn from what they see rather than what they are told. It will help them to see you model kind behavior, therefore. Getting into fights yourself, explosive meltdowns and name-calling will only help them internalize this behavior.
Praising the children when they display teamwork or can sort out conflicts goes a long way in re-enforcing positive behavior. Essentially do not give them attention only when they take to fighting.
Do not judge
It is important that when a child comes and talks to you about what they are facing with their sibling; you hear them out without judging them. That said try not to jump into solving the issue without giving enough time to the siblings to resolve it themselves. Of course, if you see the argument going out of hand or if a physical fight erupts, you need to step in. If there are issues that the children routinely fight about, you could also help them devise a solution. For example, if they war about gadgets, you could help create a schedule that they could follow.
Set the ground rules
It is important to set the ground rules early. So you can make it amply clear that name-calling or hitting is beyond bounds. Also, the consequences of breaking these rules must be communicated as also implemented. Needless to mention that the consequences need to be age-appropriate! What will work for toddlers will not work for a pre-teen and so on.
That said, do remember that some amount of sibling rivalry is not only to be expected but is even healthy. Therefore do not set unrealistic benchmarks for the children as also yourself!