Almost every parent with more than one child experiences sibling rivalry. While siblings do tend to grow closer in later life, it can be very tiring for parents in the early years. Battling for adult’s attention and jealousy can certainly disrupt family harmony.
While sibling rivalry can encourage problem solving skills, sharing and interacting with others, it can be difficult to deal with day-to-day. Fortunately, there are steps you can take to lessen ongoing opposition between brothers and sisters.
1. Let them settle their differences if they can
It’s tempting to intervene to end an argument for the sake of your own sanity, but if it’s not too serious, let children settle their own differences, especially if they are growing into young adulthood. They’ll learn that mum and dad can’t resolve everything for them and will hopefully encourage them to compromise with one another.
2. Appreciate their differences
Resentment often grows when one child is particularly talented in a particular area and the other child maybe less so. If one child is academic and the other is very sporty, notice their differences but be sure to congratulate and support them equally for their various achievements.
3. Be aware of jealousy
Similarly, jealousy can arise if one child is acknowledged more frequently than the other. If one of your children excels at something they do, of course you and other family members will praise them and there’s nothing wrong with that. However, being aware of the jealousy that this might breed often encourages parents to pay their children an equal amount of attention, or to make sure that family members are aware of how fantastic all your children are.
4. Having time away from each other
While parents of course want their children to get along, one way to lessen sibling rivalry is to also give them time apart. What children want most is their parents undivided attention, so if one of your children can stay the night at a friends or grandparents house, not only will the child at home with you feel special, but the other children getting to spend time with their grandparents, for example, will feel special for having someone else’s attention too.
5. Allow them to talk it through
If one of your children is upset with the other, allow them to talk it through rather than responding with something along the lines of, “just stop arguing.” If one of your children is angry, remind them that acting out in anger isn’t okay, but also allow them to explain to you what has caused the argument without brushing it off as silly.
6. Taking turns
This applies to playing games, doing jobs around the house and even talking. If one child has had five minutes of your attention telling you about their day at school, the next child will feel entitled to their turn. Equally, if one child helps you with something around the house one day without the help of their siblings, remind your other children it will be their turn the next. This builds a sense of equality and team work rather than competition.
7. Activities for all ages
Older siblings are all too often called bossy by their younger siblings, and the youngest of the family considered annoying by their older brothers and sisters. Setting up games that encourage younger children to think on their own but allow older children to help them complete tasks makes children of all ages feel in control.
8. Get outdoors
Sometimes what’s needed to settle sibling rivalry is getting out of the house and using up some energy. Being outside isn’t restricted to age, gender or personality and it’s something the whole family can do. If the younger members want to splash in puddles they can, if the older siblings want to sit down with you while you watch then they can do that too.
9. Demonstrate how sibling bonding is good
Sometimes, children are reluctant to get on because they might feel its not particularly “cool” to spend time with their younger brother or sister. Pointing out how it shows they are looking after them can encourage children with bigger age gaps to bond.
Ben Edwards is a self-confidence expert and life coach
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