5 Effective Ways To Deal With Sibling Rivalry

Sibling Rivalry

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One moment your kids get along with each other and the next moment they are at each other’s throat. These battles are inevitable, so prepare your kids to defuse those ugly situations.

Sibling rivalry begins even before the second baby is born, and it continues as they grow, competing for everything. As kids pass through different stages, their needs significantly affect their relation with each other. Knowing how and when to intervene can make a difference and help promote peace in the household. Read on to find out how you can manage sibling rivalry.

What Is Sibling Rivalry?

Sibling rivalry is the fighting, competition, and jealousy between sisters and brothers. It is a primary concern for parents with two or more children. Problems that arise with the birth of second child will continue throughout childhood and sometimes even through adulthood. It can be very stressful and frustrating to the parents.

[ Read: Parenting Problems And Solutions ]

What Causes Sibling Rivalry?

Rivalry develops when siblings compete for love and respect of parents. The signs may include name calling, hitting, immature behavior and bickering. The different things that may cause conflict are:

  • Every child competes to define himself as an individual. They show off their interests, talents, and activities to vie for more attention from parents.
  • Kids feel they get an unequal distribution of discipline, attention, and responsiveness.
  • They believe that their relation with parents could affect with the arrival of a new baby.
  • If your child is bored, hungry or tired, he is more likely to get frustrated and begin fights.
  • They may not know how to get your attention, so they pick up a fight.
  • Kids are prone to conflicts in families where parents assume fighting and aggression between siblings is common and acceptable.
  • Not giving proper family time such as having meals together, will increase the chances of sibling conflict.
  • When parents are prone to stress, they cannot provide proper care to their children resulting in sibling conflict.
  • Children, when prone to stress, will not have the enough ability to tolerate frustration, causing rivalry.
  • The way parents treat their children in response to the conflict will influence them.

What To Do When Sibling Rivalry Starts?

Though it is common for sisters and brothers to fight, it might not be a pleasant scenario at home. Parents can only tolerate conflicts to a certain extent, but what to do when the rivalry starts.

  • Do not involve in the dispute in the first step itself. Intervene only if there is any danger of physical distress. Your frequent interference could create other issues among them. Your children will refuse to settle their issue and instead, expect you to help and rescue them. There is also a risk of you supporting one child and leaving the other fuming. Moreover, rescued children may feel they can get away easily because their parent will save them.
  • If you are concerned about name calling or the language they use, you can talk to them over the matter.

When you interfere, you should try to resolve the problem along with them, but not for them. If you are getting involved, you should consider the below steps.

  • Separate your children until they become calm. It is best you offer them space for some time so that the conflict will not arise again. If not so, the rivalry reaches to greater heights. You should wait until the emotions die down.
  • Do not try to analyze which child is wrong so as to blame him or her. As two are involved in the fight, both will be partly responsible.
  • Try setting up a ‘win-win’ situation where each of them benefits. If both of them want the same toy, maybe there is some other game which they can play together.

As kids resolve their disputes, they will learn their life lessons. They may learn how to negotiate and compromise, how to value other’s perspective and how to control aggressive behavior.

How To Help Kids Get Along Better?

You can do simple things to encourage healthy sibling relationships.

The Basics:

  • Do not compare your kids with one another. For instance, do not say things like, “Your sister studies well, why don’t you?”
  • Do not show favoritism.
  • Appreciate each of your little one’s individual successes and talents.
  • Do not try to classify or label your child. Let them be who they are.
  • Try to bring in an atmosphere wherein they cooperate rather than compete.
  • Get to know when conflicts usually take place between your children. Does it happen before mealtime or before nap time? Perhaps a change in the routine can help turn away your kids’ rivalry.
  • Teach them optimistic ways so that each will give attention to the other. Show them ways to get along with his or her sibling and share their things.
  • At times, the younger child may feel as if he is not getting the attention she needs. Be prepared to explain her that you will do your best to meet her expectations.
  • Plan activities that are fun for everyone. Your kids’ real experiences which may act as a buffer when they get into a fight.
  • Ensure that your children have enough space and time individually. They do require a chance to have their own things and play with their set of friends.

[ Read: Second Child Syndrome ]

Give Importance To Each Child:

  • Try to set some time alone with each child. Spend some one-on-one time on a regular basis. Take at least a few minutes from each day for an uninterrupted discussion with your child.
  • When you are alone with each child, try asking them about their siblings like what are some good things in them. It helps you know about their feelings for each other.
  • Know how your kids feel about what is going on in the family.
  • Let each one know how special they are for you.
  • Honor their differences.

Resolving Fights:

  • You have to pay attention to your kids’ fights so that neither of them is hurt. Check if they can work on their own to resolve the rivalry, but the younger child may require you to intervene so as to solve the problem. Do not take anyone’s side or favor one over the other.
  • Do not lecture or yell as it doesn’t help.
  • Try helping them to develop their skills so that they will work on their conflicts. Teach them to respect each other, compromise, share things fairly, etc. It would bring confidence in them so that they will work on themselves.
  • It will not matter who started the rivalry as both will be responsible for the fight. Hold them equally responsible.
  • Encourage win-win discussions where each of them gains something.
  • Let them express their feelings towards one another. Help them to use appropriate words. Teach them how to talk without any violence, name calling or yelling.
  • Given them advance warnings and reminders. Help them resolve the conflict on their own. If required, you can give them suggestions.
  • Teach them how to resolve a conflict.
  • If you get angry over your kid’s conflict, do not to show them. First, you should learn to manage your anger and then teach your children how to handle theirs.

Common Mistakes Parents Make While Managing Sibling Rivalry:

Taking sides or punishing the kid whom you assumed to be at fault.

Paying attention at a wrong time. Parents ignore their children when they are happily playing together and pay attention when a certain problem occurs.


Simple Parenting Tips That Work To Resolve Sibling Rivalry:

1. When the conflict turns to excessive verbal or physical violence or when some incidents seem to increase, take action. Offer suggestions on how to manage the situations like:

  • To ignore teasing
  • To agree to whatever the teaser says
  • Asking the teaser to stop

When the above measures do not work, you should seek help from your partner or a nurse.

2. Involve your entire family to deal with the situation which may provide positive or negative consequences.

You can plan for an outing for the whole day or an afternoon or evening where everyone can interact with kids, and there may be no scope for rivalry.

3. Develop a system wherein you can equally distribute coveted privileges. For instance –

  • Who will push the button in the elevator
  • Who will choose the television show
  • Who will choose the menu for the lunch or dinner
  • Who will take the chance to ride shotgun
  • Who will empty the trash (rotate on a weekly basis)

[ Read: Tips To Develop Positive Thinking In Children ]

When To Get Professional Help:

In some families, the siblings rivalry is so severe that it may affect the children psychologically or emotionally. In such cases, you have to seek help from a mental healthcare provider. Get help if:

  • the conflict is so dangerous that it leads to marital issues between you and your spouse.
  • it causes physical harm to any of the family members.
  • it affects the psychological well-being or self-esteem of any member of the household.
  • it is related to depression or any other such significant concerns.

If you have any more concerns that you are not able to solve by yourself, you should immediately take it to a healthcare professional.

Do share your tips on how to handle sibling rivalry in children with other parents in the comment section below.

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