Sibling Rivalry

Featured in School-aged

Sibling Rivalry

Unfortunately siblings don’t always get along – much to the dismay of their parents. It is quite commonplace for brothers and sisters to fight like cats and dogs. It is also very common for siblings to go back and forth between loving each other and severely disliking each other.

Methods of Discipline

Sibling rivalry often starts by the time the second child joins the family and continues as the siblings get older. As siblings grow, they tend to compete for everything, from their parents’ attention to toys. A child’s needs evolve as they develop and therefore, as they reach various stages of their development, how they relate to their siblings change as well. It can be very frustrating and upsetting for parents, as well as others in the household, to listen to your children fight. It can create a stressful environment for all involved. Contrary to what many parents think, there are things that can be done to promote peace and facilitate your kids to get along better.

So what should parents do when their children start fighting?

1. Try not to get involved in your children’s fights – provided there is no physical danger for either child. By always intervening, you may risk other problems being created. Your children may begin to expect that you will come to their rescue and will not learn to work the issues out with themselves.

2. By intervening, it is also possible that it may appear that you are taking one side over the other, fostering further resentment. Be sure to never take sides in a sibling argument.

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3. Try to encourage your children to use appropriate words to express their feelings with one another and coach them to talk over their issues instead of jumping into a fight.

If you feel you must get involved in the fight (especially if it becomes physical), there are some strategies that can help.

4. First, separate the children until they have calmed down. Give them some space and emotional cool down time prior to discussing what has transpired.

5. Do not focus on blame as it does take both of them to fight. Both of them should be held accountable for their involvement in the fight.

Helping your child cope

In order to help your children deal with sibling rivalry, try to come up with a “win-win” situation in a way that each of your children has something to gain. For example, if they both want to play with the same action figure, think of a game that they could enjoy playing together. This also promotes camaraderie among siblings, instead of parallel play with individual toys. Remember to keep in mind that sibling rivalry doesn’t always need to be a bad thing. By having some conflict, siblings learn to value one another’s perspective, to control some aggressive impulses, and practice how to negotiate and compromise.

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To help prevent fighting among siblings, set some ground rules for what is acceptable behavior. Also, be sure to spend some one-on-one time with each of your children, doing things that interest them. Along the same lines, also be sure that each child has his or her own time and space to do things he or she likes to do. Above all, make sure that all of your children know they are loved, safe and important to you.

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