Managing ​Sibling Rivalry

Source: One Tough Job

A sibling is a special gift, but one that may be under-appreciated during the childhood years.

While siblings are often excellent playmates and, in later years, best friends and confidants, arguments among siblings are bound to occur and are absolutely normal—even though they can be a parent’s biggest headache! It is important to recognize the individual personalities, interests, and needs of each of your children and know how to effectively diffuse conflicts that arise so that your family can be happy and healthy.

what parents can do

Know why they act out. Many parents worry that the constant squabbles of their children means they dislike or even “hate” each other. Actually though, the reasons most siblings fight with one another are pretty benign. They could be seeking attention from you or from each other, they may bicker as a stress reliever, or they may be trying to distinguish and separate themselves from one another. As a parent, seeing your children argue will try your patience. Take heart, as your children grow and learn to resolve these conflicts they will learn important social skills that will help them in their future relationships.

Set ground rules but try not to referee every argument. Your children may use words to hurt their sibling, try to exclude each other from time with friends and other family members, or even hit, pinch and use other physical methods on each other. It is important to enforce rules and appropriate consequences with your children just as you would if they were on a play date with a friend. However, the goal is to remove yourself as much as you can so that your children learn to work together and problem solve the issue they are fighting about.

Teach positive interaction. One way to minimize squabbles among your children is to model cooperation, compromise, and anger management. Lead by example and show them what it is to stay calm in difficult moments and handle conflict in healthy ways. Teach them to take a deep breath and remember not to say things they do not mean in the heat of the moment. Remind them that it takes two to argue and show them how to apologize to one another.

Don't compare. Each of your children is unique and they may struggle and act out in an attempt to remind you of this. Make sure you spend some one-on-one time with each child. While it is easy to enroll your children in the same activities, especially if they are of the same age or gender, recognize their individual talents and interests. Also, teach your children that fair is not always equal. Older children are often given more responsibility and younger children do not always get the same privileges.

Make family time a priority. A good way for your children to learn to get along with one another is to emphasize the importance of family. There are small and easy ways to accomplish this, like planning at least one activity to do together each weekend, trying to eat dinner together, and holding family meetings. By prioritizing family time and family relationships, you will teach your children to value their sibling. While this may not eradicate sibling rivalry, it will set the foundation for healthy sibling relationships to develop.

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