Sat, 10 December 2022
The Daily Ittefaq

How to manage sibling rivalry

Update : 26 Oct 2022, 15:12

If you have more than one child, you may experience rivalry between children. With a little insight and patience, sibling harmony can be achieved. 

Siblings squabble because of jealousy, competition, conflicting needs and temperaments, and sometimes out of boredom or even as a way to connect with one another or gain attention from you.

It is a matter of headaches for parents. But studies show that sibling rivalry can actually be beneficial, teaching kids skills such as negotiating, compromising and resolving conflicts.

There are some things that parents can do to manage sibling rivalry.

Typically, three things are the root of most sibling rivalry-kids feeling they’re getting unequal amounts of attention, degrees of responsiveness and severity of discipline. Kids expect to get their fair share, they don't want to be treated as carbon copies of each other, either.

Avoid comparisons between children

Don’t use labels when talking about your children, either. Parents will refer to their children as 'the athletic one,' or 'the smart one.' These labels can create separation between siblings. Even if you're not so explicitly comparing them with labels, you might be fostering comparisons by constantly praising one child or criticizing one child more than the others, or clearly paying more attention to one child’s needs and interests.

Teach kids how to handle conflict in a positively

Children who are taught how to manage disagreements in a constructive manner—say, by listening to their sibling’s point of view or not engaging in name-calling—will be in a much better frame of mind to settle disputes and move past fighting.

Explain to your children that your family is like a team. And like any good team, everyone—mom, dad, and the kids—needs to work together to have a peaceful and loving home. Any fights among family members can hurt the whole team or the family.

Focus on healthy conflict resolution

As a family you have to set up bumpers for what behaviors are never acceptable, such as bullying or hitting. Those can result in immediate consequences.

For lesser squabbles, parental involvement can be harder to figure out. It helps to understand the kids' triggers. By understanding what leads to the arguments, parents can intervene before it escalates. If playing sports is an activity that frequently leads to fights, then parents can closely monitor their children playing and deescalate the situation before it gets out of hand.

Bring the kids together

Remind them that you love and support both of them. Then start the problem solving process. Ask one kid to describe the problem, say how they feel and offer two suggestions are for solving it. Do the same with the next child, and the next. Repeat what you've heard from the kids, then have the family decide between some of the possible solutions.

Praise them for their efforts. Say something encouraging like, "Sometimes it's tough to talk about our feelings and create solutions but you all did it. You are great. You are amazing. I love you all." 

After some practice, your kids will be on their way to understanding how to resolve issues between themselves.

Ask the children to suggest some solutions

Encourage them to put themselves in the other person’s shoes before making suggestions. Model good problem-solving behavior. Children watch and learn from parents, and take our cues on how to settle conflict from how we handle problems with our spouse, friends, and family. If we are respectful and loving during a disagreement, our children will learn and adopt those conflict-resolution skills themselves.

Teach calming strategies

Teach children calming techniques like deep breathing, journaling, squeezing a pillow or stress ball, etc. Remind them screaming, calling names, and hitting will only escalate the conflict. If they calm down first, they can find a helpful solution. 

It may also be necessary to give your children some time to cool off before solving the problem. Separate the children and send them to different areas of the home to calm down as needed. Don’t frame this as a time-out. You can say, “We’re going to solve this problem together, but you need to take a few minutes to calm down first.” 

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More on this topic