With the Easter School Holidays fast approaching, be prepared to deal with some instances of sibling rivalry. While we as parents might enjoy the chance of spending more time with our kids, it doesn’t always seem like the kids enjoy spending more time with each other! Sibling relationships are complicated. While they are full of love, they are also full of frustration, annoyance and competing. Let’s take a look at what is behind sibling rivalry and some tips to deal with outbreaks of it.
Sibling rivalry is jealousy, fighting and competition between brothers and sisters. Almost every family with more than one child will have to deal with episodes of sibling rivalry, and it can affect the whole family. For some parents, it can go beyond the irritation of playing mediator all the time. For blended families, the rivalry can sometimes be so intense that it puts the adult’s relationship in jeopardy.
How many times have you said, ‘Stop fighting with your brother and just be nice to each other’. Probably hundreds of times. And how many times have they listened – instantly stopping the fight so that they lovingly hug each other and profess how sorry they are. Probably never.
When you choose to have more than one child in the house, you have to be prepared for the issue of sibling rivalry. It might not happen every minute of the day, but it happens enough to need some tactics on how to deal with it. Here is what you can do…
You are never going to be able to stop the fighting and competing from happening, so find a way to cope with it. Separating the siblings from each other into their own space can be a great start. It gives them time on their own to calm down, and to process what has happened.
Make sure that you have clear rules about behaviour like, no aggression, no hitting, and no name-calling. It won’t stop the fighting, but it should stop it escalating to a place you don’t want it to.
Try not to favour one child more than the another. Try to treat them all the same, with the same set of rules and the same set of rewards. Be fair. It is important that your child knows that there is enough love in your heart for everyone, and everyone gets an equal share of the love.
Arrange to spend one-on-one time with each child. This time doesn’t have to be a full-on outing, but spend some time together doing what they love. Maybe it’s reading together, going for a bike ride, or playing Lego, just time for you to bond with your child without any other siblings there.
It can be crushing for a child’s spirit if they think that their parent is prouder of a sibling. Don’t say, ‘why can’t you be more like your sister’, or ‘[such-n-such] is a bit slower than the other two’. Praise for one sibling, should not be used as criticism for another. Each child has their own personality and set of skills.
You may not have to intervene into every sibling altercation. Sometimes fights happen because your kids know it will get your attention. If they are not tearing the walls down, then they might be able to work it out between them. Resolving a disagreement is a valuable skill to have, and it teaches our children resilience.
Make sure that your kids know they are a valuable part of the family team. Celebrate successes together, and allow siblings to be happy for each other. Encourage gift giving between siblings, honouring each other’s achievements, and celebrating birthdays. Teach them that when something nice happens to your sibling, you should be happy for them and not sad for yourself. Before too long, it will be your turn to have something good happen.
Encourage healthy sharing
Sharing can be the cause of many fights. To try and minimise fights over sharing by having toys that belong to the whole family. These are the toys that must be shared by everyone. But each child should have special toys that belong to them alone. If they choose to share them, then that is their choice, but they do not have to. They need to know that their family will respect their choice about their own property, it helps them fell like an important part of the team.
Sibling rivalry can be difficult to deal with, it can be loud, it can be frustrating and it can be never-ending. Setting clear boundaries and allowing your children to each have their own space should hopefully provide some relief to the constant bickering.