Are your kids driving you bonkers with their constant bickering, competition, and jealousy? Read about how to deal with sibling rivalry on our blog.
How to Deal with Sibling Rivalry
What is Sibling Rivalry?
Sibling rivalry is the jealousy, competition, and fighting that occurs between two or more kids within a family. The desire for approval and attention is frequently the driving force of rivalry. Sibling rivalry can start as soon as a second child is born and continue throughout childhood.
Effects of Sibling Rivalry
Sibling rivalry will inevitably cause contention and frustration within the family unit. Sibling rivalry may just start as friendly bickering. However, when escalated, sibling rivalry may turn into bullying which is often filled with physical and psychological aggression. This aggression can lead to depression, anxiety, and anger later in life.
Below are 5 tips for how to deal with sibling rivalry:
Tip #1 – Manage Your Expectations
When your expectations don’t match reality, you may feel a sense of loss. Growing up, what expectation or fantasy did you have for your future family? Perhaps it was a fairytale bliss with perfect family harmony. Make sure your current expectations are realistic. Recognize that your kids will fight from time to time despite your efforts to teach them kindness.
As you manage your own expectations, you put yourself in a position to avoid great disappointment. This will allow you to support your children in their difficulties with more confidence.
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Tip #2 – Work Together to Set Rules & Clear Consequences
Setting rules and being clear about consequences is a great preventative strategy and will push children to think about their actions ahead of time. As you set rules together, your kids will have a sense of buy-in. Doing this will help everyone have a clear understanding of what the rules are and why they are in place.
Be consistent in enforcing the rules and following through with consequences. At first, your children may resist and test you. However, don’t give in. In time, the resistance will diminish.
Tip #3 – Avoid Comparison
Sibling rivalry often happens because of comparison and trying to “one-up” each other. As the parent, make sure you’re not feeding the fire. Be intentional. Oftentimes we say things generously, that may actually be hurtful. For incidence, if you say “Jane is pretty and Katelyn’s smart”, your kids will likely hear that Katelyn’s not very pretty and Jane’s not very smart.
You can avoid this simply by complimenting and praising your children individually. Giving a child praise for their individual accomplishments and attributes will help build a bond and sense of trust.
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Tip #4: Praise Your Child
The Best Way to Praise Children
What’s the best way to praise children? The best way to praise children is to:
- Praise their efforts. Acknowledge the hard work they have made. Ask them how they feel about their hard work.
- Be specific in your praise. Praise exactly what they have done
- Just a reminder, don’t compare them to another sibling or to someone else. Praise them!
- When you praise, don’t you use the phrase “good girl or good boy.” Praise what they have done.
The best way to praise children is to praise what they have done and the effort they have made. Don’t forget to ask them how they feel. This is a wonderful way to build their self-esteem and shows them that they can do hard things and that value of hard work.
Tip #5 – One-On-One Time
It is important to give all of your children a piece of your undivided attention alone. This doesn’t mean you have to schedule an elaborate parent/child date consistently. It could be as simple as going for a walk together. (Click here for some more great ideas on how to spend one-on-one time with your kids.) This time together will help your child feel important which will counteract emotions that often lead to sibling rivalry.
During this time, allow your child to talk about their thoughts and emotions. Validate them in their achievements and empathize with them in their difficulties. Facilitate opportunities for your child to admit feelings of jealousy and inadequacy that will come up from time to time. Admitting and accepting the feelings that are causing sibling rivalry will help them cope better. Give your child this safe place to talk.
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Tip #6 – Intervene When Necessary
Your kids will want you involved – they’ll want to plead their case and try to get you on “their side”. This will simply escalate the rivalry. When necessary, get involved only by letting your children know that you expect them to talk about the conflict and figure it out together. With that said though, children may need a little bit of coaching as they learn about conflict management. You can help coach a conversation without getting in the middle of the conflict.
If violence or emotional abuse is involved, make it clear that those actions are not okay and will not be tolerated. You may have to enforce a timeout so your kids can cool down. Make sure there is follow up after the break, rather than just dismissing the situation.
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Tip #7 – Be a Positive Role Model
Model good problem-solving behavior in your own conflicts. Children watch you and learn a lot from your actions. Role modeling is a powerful tool that can be used to influence the direction of a child’s character no matter their age. Consider your relationships. Is there any behaviors that you should change?
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Tip #8 – Plan Family Activities
Plan activities that you can enjoy together as a family. When possible, take a family vacation. These experiences and memories will act as a buffer when there is conflict. If there are warm memories connecting your children, they will be more inclined to resolve conflict when it arises.
Having activities together will help your family develop unity, build trust, and share love. Unity, trust, and love can help fill emotional voids that may be at the root of the sibling rivalry.
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What has worked for you with helping your kids and their sibling rivalry? Share your success with us in the comments!
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