He won’t leave me alone!” “She started it!” “Did not!” “Did too!” “He touched me!” “Well, she’s breathing my air!” “Don’t look at me!”
Ah, the beautiful sounds of my children spending time together, playing together nicely, and communicating their love for each other. According to the Center for Parenting Education, there are several myths about sibling relationships:
- Siblings shouldn’t fight with each other.
- Siblings should know how to play fairly.
- Siblings should act lovingly toward each other.
- Siblings should be able to manage their anger toward one another.
If you believe this, you might want to give yourself a reality check. Sibling rivalry is inevitable. But you can work to reduce the frequency and intensity of the conflicts that naturally arise.
- Be a facilitator instead of a judge – Ask questions such as, “Why are you mad?” “What do you think he really wants?” “What do you think is fair?” “What do you think that your brother/sister thinks is fair?” “Do you have any ideas how to solve this?”
- Stay calm yourself. When you yell, you set a poor example for your children to follow
- Don’t allow them to physically fight. Separate them, sit them down, and explain (calmly) that we don’t ever physically hurt others. Ever!
- Don’t compare your kids. Comparisons make a child feel unloved and unappreciated. If you say, “Why can’t you be more like your brother?” the child will build resentment toward you and toward their sibling.
- Recognize each child for unique talents and abilities.
- Plan fun activities to do together. This helps them to create bonds and memories to share.
- Plan one-on-one activities with each of your children. This will help to build self-esteem, knowing that they are individually important and helps to reduce jealousy over the time you spend with the siblings.
- Treat children fairly, not equally. Instead of giving children the exact same toy, give them different toys that suit their interests and ages. Punish according to what works best and is fair for each child.
Remember, sibling rivalry has a plus side, too. Children learn to negotiate and compromise. They learn to assert themselves. They learn when they have gone too far, a very important social skill. They learn to be resilient. They learn to recognize that others have feelings. And when they see a sibling being attacked by others, they come to their defense, because, after all, they really do love that annoying pest.
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