Sibling rivalry is natural and this healthy competition among siblings is unavoidable. However, the fighting and tension can wreak havoc on family time and bonding if allowed to escalate beyond the occasional boundary dispute.
Brothers and sisters have a precious opportunity to bond even if they get into competitions and fights. Consider these steps to increase the bonding and reduce the fighting.
- Give each child special attention. Sibling rivalry is often just a struggle to get noticed. Spend separate time with each of your children regularly and share their favorite activities. Show equal enthusiasm for piano recitals and soccer matches.
- Recognize your children as individuals. Avoid comparing one sibling to another. Treat them as individuals and acknowledge their personal abilities and strengths.
- Teach conflict resolution skills. Having a brother or sister is a valuable training ground for learning many life skills. Teach kids to compromise, treat each other with respect, and take turns.
- Discourage tattling. Let kids know that telling on each other is against the ground rules. The only exception is when someone’s safety or well-being is in jeopardy.
- Be sensitive to potential triggers. Milestones like bringing home a new baby or starting school can escalate tensions. Even every-day factors like getting too hungry or tired can make it more difficult for kids to stay on their best behavior.
- Encourage positive interactions. Give your kids opportunities to talk about what they like about each other. Discuss the positive aspects of having brothers and sisters. Creating lots of cherished memories and shared experiences will help them to support each other during rough times.
- Hold regular family meetings. Family meetings make it easier for everyone to work together as a team. When kids get a chance to provide input, they feel validated and more invested in family activities and routines.
- Be a good role model. Give your kids a peaceful environment. If you’re calm and free of anger, your kids are more likely to feel the same way. Engage the whole family in activities to lower stress, like taking a long walk or listening to music.
- Encourage children to work out their own differences. Keep an eye on your kids but let them take the first crack at settling disputes. Offer suggestions if they get stuck but give them a chance to make their own decisions. Developing solutions is the best form of learning.
- Intervene when necessary. Know when to step in. Physical fights, name calling and yelling require immediate attention. If it’s persistent, consider counseling to get at the root cause.
- Help your kids to talk about their feelings. Kids are likely to get along better as they become more proficient at talking about how they feel and what they want. Be patient with their efforts.
- Guide kids toward win-win solutions. The best negotiations make everyone feel like a winner. Maybe kids can take turns playing with a new video game or set up a rotating schedule for taking out the garbage.
- Give advance warnings. Provide gentle reminders when you see negotiations breaking down. If kids know they’re both going to miss out on an outing they’ve been looking forward to, they’ll feel more motivated to agree on who gets to sit in the front seat of the car.
- Discipline children privately. Take children aside if they need to be disciplined. Let them know that making fun of a brother or sister who gets punished is out of bounds.
It’s natural for kids to squabble and compete for their parent’s attention. Knowing how to defuse sibling rivalry will help bring more harmony into your home and teach your kids how to resolve conflicts constructively.