In multi-child families, sibling rivalry is a common occurrence. Competition or animosity among siblings usually stems from the need for children to define themselves away from their brothers or sisters and the struggle to earn equal attention from the parents.
Whichever way the sibling rivalry manifests itself in your home, there are certain measures you can take to alleviate the situation and teach your children how to get along:
1. Do not compare your children
Instead, you should celebrate and respect their differences. One child may be athletically inclined while the other excels academically. At some point, one will feel inadequate to the other – make sure to emphasize and praise their own unique talents.
Avoid placing one child on a pedestal as a “role model” for other children. For example, try not to say things like “At your age, I could trust Johnny to stay home alone. Why can’t I trust you?” When comparing one child to another, this only highlights your child’s weaknesses and downfalls and may cause resentment against the other child.
2. Give each child individual attention
More and more, parents find it difficult to balance work and life within the few hours we have each day. However, it is so important to give individual attention to your children. Take the time to praise their good behaviour and make them feel important.
Even taking a few minutes each day to have a private conversation with your child is a good step toward building an individual rapport.
3. Encourage teamwork
Have your children work together to achieve a common goal, whether it be chores or having one sibling teach another sibling a new skill.
Also, you can foster teamwork skills by implementing consequences to all children involved in misbehaviour. If they cannot take turns playing a game, the game goes away. If they argue over which show to watch, then the television goes off.
4. Teach problem-solving skills
Sometimes, the best thing you can do as a parent of squabbling siblings is to stay out of their arguments and allow them to resolve the issue on their own. Of course, if the issue escalates or becomes aggressive, you will want to intervene.
If you have to involve yourself, listen to each child’s side of the story and have your children work together to come up with a solution to their issue. If they are unable to, offer suggestions. This will encourage problem-solving and win-win situations.
5. All siblings fight
At one point or another, your children will have an argument or fight. Making the effort to reduce their need for attention or validation from you as a parent will greatly reduce the tension between them. Subsequently, when they do butt heads over an issue or situation, you can be right there to help them resolve the conflict.