Tips to Manage Sibling Rivalry
Updated: Jan 5
Sibling rivalry is the jealousy, competition and fighting between brothers and sisters, which usually starts right after, or even before, the arrival of a sibling.If you have more than one child, sibling rivalry is almost inevitable. The older child often becomes aggressive, "acts out" or regresses when he feels that he is getting an unequal amount of attention and responsiveness from his parents.
As a result of this perceived "inequality of attention" jealousy, competition, and fighting between brothers and sisters are a common sight for parents. Younger children who are not able to express their frustrations verbally often express themselves by misbehaving—hitting, pushing, and yelling at their siblings. While it may be impossible to stop sibling rivalry entirely, you may reduce its frequency. Read on to find out how!
Make Time for Attention
More often than not, children fight because they want to gain the attention of their parents. To satisfy their need for attention, it would help to arrange ‘alone time’ for each child. Plan on giving each child 10-15 minutes of focused attention. Be fully present for your time with them. If your children feel that you love and value them equally, they will not feel the need to compete for your attention.
Tip: When your older child acts up or behaves aggressively, you can say "you can ask for my attention and I will give it to you".
Do not compare or practice favouritism
Try not to compare your child's performance with his/her sibling as this will promote unhealthy competition or even result in resentment towards you. Children need a safe space to express their feelings without being judged. Instead of comparing to his/her siblings, make a conscious effort to direct your child's efforts to improve his/her performance against his/her past performance/mistakes.
Cooperate, not Compete
When it comes to kids, parents tend to compare their children, favour one over the other, or encourage competition between them. In doing so, we create comparisons between siblings, and children will feel the need to compete with each other for their parents’ approval. To avoid sibling rivalry, parents should avoid comparing their children—don’t play favourites. Instead, create opportunities for cooperation and compromise. Cheer on positive attributes, such as teamwork, persistence, and kindness!
Praise Good Behaviour
Siblings will not be fighting all the time. When you notice your children behaving well, acknowledge the good behaviour and tell them clearly and specifically what they are doing well. For example, if you notice your children playing together cooperatively, you may say ‘You’re all sharing and playing really nicely together!’ or ‘Good job on taking turns!’. With such positive feedback, you are much more likely to see that behaviour again.
Hug your child and get them to hug each other
Hugging each other can be a good way to deposit "love units" into the siblings love bank account towards each other. When you are giving focused time to each child, at an appropriate time (for example at bedtime), give each child a good, long (at least 8 seconds) hug and feel the love that you have for that individual child. Do this privately with that individual child so that he/she is confident of the love that you have for him/her. Practice doing that regularly for a few weeks.
When you feel that the time is ready, practice hugging that child in front of his/her siblings. Start with the oldest child first. Then take turns to hug the sibling and have the siblings hug one another (for at least 8 seconds).
This will greatly add to the "love units" that the siblings have for one another. Remind the siblings of the "love units" that they have for one another when they start to quarrel/fight.
Be a Role Model
Children are keen observers of how parents interact with one another. If your children see you and your partner have loud arguments, they are more likely to do the same. If you’d like your children to handle disagreements calmly and respectfully, they have to see that you are doing this. Just remember that your children will imitate your behaviours, so make sure they learn proper behaviours from you!
When fighting starts, try not to intervene unless there is a danger of physical harm. Instead, encourage them to work things out and resolve the crisis themselves. This can help your children get along better and deal positively with conflicts of the future!
Remember, sibling rivalry is inevitable but manageable. With time, effort, patience and these tips and tricks, you’ll be able to keep sibling rivalry and fighting to a minimum!
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