Tips on how to handle sibling rivalry in your household.
On the 10th of April it will be Siblings Day. This day originated in the USA and was created to celebrate and acknowledge the importance of our siblings.
My sister was my first friend and continues to be my best one, but growing up it wasn't always this way! I remember only too well the shouting and the running to mum and dad blaming the other one.
From this experience, I am sure almost every set of siblings goes through sibling rivalry and this article aims to give you as parents, some information on what it is, how to handle it in your home, and how to emerge in tact.
What is sibling rivalry?
Sibling rivalry can be caused by jealousy, attention seeking or competitiveness and can start any time from the pregnancy with a second child.
The good news is, that while this behaviour can exist in some forms throughout a lifetime, most grow out of it by the time adolescence finishes. Sibling rivalry may manifest itself as name calling, physical fighting and sometimes even generalised regressive behaviour.
The main trigger for this rivalry is that children of different ages are at different stages of development and so different things are important to them. For teenagers, they are trying to exert their independence and so anything that challenges that such as coming into "my room" will cause frustration. The same is true for a toddler with "my toys" or school age children with "my friends."
What should parents do?
The key here is to set boundries and not to get involved in the individual incident unless one of your children is at risk of being harmed. As a family it can be a good idea to have a set of family rules that everyone is expected to follow with known consequences if a rule is broken. These rules should take into account your children's everyday interactions and if those include hitting or shouting, make this unacceptable through your rules.
Once there is an argument occurring in front of you, it is important not to adjudicate or to place blame as this can make the rivalry intensify rather than improve. Rather, help your children come to a conclusion that they are both happy with by themselves and possibly one that involves them spending time together. for example, if they are fighting over whose turn it is to play on iPad or who gets to use the table tennis table when their friends come over, suggest that they all play table tennis together or find an app which is suitable for 2 people.
Remember that your children will learn conflict resolution from what they see, so if they see you sorting out your differences with your partner, parents or other children calmly, they are more likley to follow suit. The same is true if they see shouting and aggression.
How to nurture a good relationship as they grow:
It is important that your children learn to communicate with each other and be around each other. They will be their siblings's most enduring and often most long term relationship. It is vital that they understand and respect each other's differences.
You can encourage this by the individual time you spend with each child being spent on something that they like and enjoy, which may be different for every sibling in the family. By having set family times such as family dinners, siblings learn to interact with each other as part of a family unit on an ongoing basis.
It is also important that siblings have time without each other in which ever way that is practical for you as a parent to action. This could be different bedrooms, different days for hanging out with friends in the school holidays or after school activities which are at different times. Allow them to explore their personalities as part of the family unit and ensure tolerance for each other's differences is central to the ethos of your family.
How do you handle sibling rivalry in your household?
I'm a first-time mother and I've found that I can't go out with my son without somebody giving me advice on how to raise him. There seems to be a general assumption that new parents have no idea about children, and it is everybody's duty to share their wisdom.