Sibling rivalry

Conflict and rivalry among siblings is a normal part of family life. If your kids never disagree you can assume one child is giving orders and the other one is following them. To a certain extent you want your children to have differences and be assertive enough to stand up for themselves.

Sibling relationships are important. They often influence the personality development of children more than their relationships with parents. Without fail, your first two children will have different personalities. One may be good at art while the other is more sports-minded.

I find the best antidote for sibling rivalry is to do nothing. Remember the slower you walk, the more likely it will all be over by the time you get there. Leave your children alone and let them work out their disagreements on their own. Your interference will only serve to reward their fighting behavior, and intensify the rivalry as each child tries to get you on their side. If you have to get involved, it’s a good policy not to get to the bottom of which child started it. It’s better to treat your children as a group and make everyone responsible for whatever happened. Help your children identify the problem at hand and think of solutions. If children are too steeped in anger to even think of alternatives you may need to separate them 15 minutes or half hour. This gives everybody a chance to cool down and try looking at things from other children’s points of view.

If your children are constantly antagonistic towards each other you might want to try a token reward system. Each time your children are cooperating and getting along they can earn a token. Tokens can later be exchanged for prizes or a special outing both children want to go on. Another suggestion is to ask your children to plan a fun activity or surprise for someone. This diverts their energy away from each other and onto a fun project they’re motivated to do. Alliances like these help to build unity.

Rivalry is often sparked by jealousy. It’s impossible to be totally equal and fair with your children all the time. Even if you are in your own eyes, your children may not see things the same as you. Even if your children don’t show any visible signs of jealousy, you’re better off assuming it’s there. If one of your children feels short-changed, encourage him to admit his jealousy. There’s nothing wrong with feeling jealous; it shows that the matter is important to your child. If he reacts by putting down his sibling, try not to make an issue at the time. It is better to talk later privately about how your child could work out his feelings better next time.

You may not believe this but brothers and sisters throughout preschool and grade-school are nice to each other more often than they are mean. Sibling relationships are often close and conflictual. Children view their sibling relationships as more important and reliable than friends, but at the same time more conflict-ridden and less satisfying.