How to Deal with Sibling Rivalry: 7 Practical Tips for Bewildered Parents


The speed at which my kids flip from being best friends to rivals is dizzying. One moment they are cuddled up in a hug with my preschooler declaring her endless love for her younger sister. The next moment they are in a fierce tussle over a toy. Never mind that there are oodles of other toys lying around untouched.

I have a strong hunch that I am not alone in this. That there are hordes of other parents scratching their heads in exasperation. Probably wondering at which age the drama grinds to a halt.

The truth is that when there is more than one child, sibling rivalry is guaranteed. You took a raincheck on it the moment you had your second baby.

If you go down memory lane, you will realize that you too had squabbles with your siblings. Now the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree, does it?

What Triggers Sibling Rivalry?

Why can’t your kids just get along? What prompts the scratching, biting and punching? Sibling conflict is mostly about power struggles. Just like adults, children have a voracious urge to feel powerful, to be in control.

They also get into tussles to catch their parents or caregivers attention. It was probably all rosy when you had one child. But as your family grows, your kids find themselves having to share your attention. They often don’t take that kindly and fighting with their siblings is their way of venting.

Unfortunately, sibling conflict can be very unnerving to parents. A household laced with scuffles and strife is not anyone’s cup of tea.

What can parents do to help their kids sail through this phase? We are glad you asked. The fact is that what may work for one family may be a complete flop for another. There are however a few tips that can help diffuse the tension that comes with sibling rivalry.

Make Peace with It

We get it. You are at the end of your tether with all the bickering, screaming and tears. But we suggest you make peace with it. Because your kids are perfectly normal. Accepting that your kids will constantly engage in brawls is a good place to start. So please cut your tots some slack and let them be.

Do Not Take Sides

Remember that your kids will often be in tussles to catch your attention. When you intervene and favor one child over the other(s), you are causing more harm than good. Learn to mediate without taking sides.

If for instance, they all want the same toy at the same time, you can withdraw the said toy altogether instead of assigning it to one child. That way none of the children will feel unfairly treated.

Enforce Family Rules

Formulate rules that stipulate your family’s expected behavior. Such rules may indicate that there should be no hitting or use of foul language during conflict. Constantly remind your kids the rules and let them in on the consequences of noncompliance.

Spend One on One Time with Each Child Daily

Aim to spend quality one on one time each day with each child. Your child can choose a favorite activity that you can do together. This will ensure none of your kids is feeling starved of your attention. It will hopefully help to abate the scuffles.

Teach Your Kids Conflict Resolution

Believe it or not, there is some good that seeps out of sibling rivalry. Grab the opportunity to impress upon your kids’ important life skills like conflict resolution. Let your kids know that discord is normal. Implore them to accommodate other people’s opinions even when they differ from theirs. Encourage them to control their temper and live in harmony with others.

Ignore the Squabbles- Sometimes

Sometimes the best way to calm the storm is to ignore it entirely. If you are always swift to mediate, your kids may interpret that as a reward to their conflict. They may consider fighting to be a sneaky way of catching your attention.

If the conflict is just a harmless exchange of words or a simple tussle, give it no attention. This will also offer your kids the chance to resolve their differences on their own

Go Easy on the First Born

Being a firstborn is not a walk in the park. With the birth of a second child, many parents inadvertently expect the firstborn to be more responsible. In case of conflict, the older child is pressed to be more understanding and yielding.

Parents tend to forget that the firstborn is still a child who hankers for their attention. Besides, they are already going through a rough patch having to share their parents. Parents should, by all means, ease up on older kids.

Final Thoughts 

Sibling rivalry is part of the deal when you have more than one child. And while the chaos it tags along can be stifling to any parent, it teaches your kids to co-exist and resolve conflict.  We trust the tips we have shared will help make this phase a tad bearable.

 


6 responses to “How to Deal with Sibling Rivalry: 7 Practical Tips for Bewildered Parents”

  1. Good read Keren.You should know the many times I have’ forced’ my firstborn to let go the toy and insist how he needs to be a good big brother.I will hug him tonight and apologies.Such an eye opener, may God help us to be better parents each day.Keep them coming.

    • Most firstborns have been subjected to this. I would do the same to my daughter till I ‘saw the light’. No wonder the younger kids tend to bully the older ones. Thanks, Madrine for sharing your experience.

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