Parents would know what it means to have more than one child in the house. There they are again, fighting and screaming over the simplest of things. Sibling rivalry is inevitable and it is perfectly normal. However, it can be really exhausting to witness such an event every other hour of the day. Never-ending sibling squabbles can make even the calmest parents lose it.
But, all this bickering does have a gain. As children settle their conflicts, they learn how to adjust, compromise, and cooperate. And that’s a good thing! But there’s only so much parents can take and it doesn’t hurt to have a bit of peacetime, don’t you think?
No worries parents for we’ve rounded up the tips on how to manage and prevent sibling rivalry.
Sibling rivalry is inevitable
Sibling rivalry is present in children as young as 4 years and below, especially when they have less than 3 years in age gap. Children 4 years and below heavily rely on their parents and find it difficult to share mommy and daddy with other siblings. This is even more evident with the arrival of a newborn baby where the little presence is a hard reminder to your older child that he no longer is the baby of the family.
And it doesn’t stop there. Just when we think we’ve passed the squabbles, it gets worse between siblings aged 8 to 12 years old. Siblings who are close in age or have similar interests tend to compete more, especially when the unspoken prize is the parents’ attention. Mommy and Daddy’s praises and recognition is the number trigger for sibling rivalry.
Lastly, you might think planning children with huge gaps in between is a free pass to sibling rivalry. However, it’s not. This is what we mean with sibling conflict being unavoidable, regardless of age.
As the younger child grows and develops his own skills and talents, the older child might feel inferior, especially if his younger sibling is showing more recognizable talents. He would feel threatened or embarrassed and this could lead to unnecessary competition. In the case of the younger child, he might become envious of the privileges that come with his older sibling.
How to manage sibling rivalry
Here are a few tips to help parents manage sibling rivalry and conflict.
Create a healthy environment
Don’t compare your children, show more favor to the other or encourage competition between them. Instead, be a good role model and set an example. Remember, your children easily pick up on how you act and interact with others, especially with your significant other.
If they see you and your spouse talking out issues and concerns calmly, instead of fighting and shouting, they are more likely to follow the same method of handling their problems.
There are fewer situations to fight over if children feel they are given equal attention and appreciation. Don’t label and pigeonhole your children, instead, let each child know that they are loved and appreciated by spending time with them individually. If you have an active child that loves the outside world, soak under the sun with him. If the other sibling prefers to stay in and read, go ahead and snuggle next to him.
Treat fairly and not equally
When you have more than one child, fairness is a must. And it doesn’t always mean equal. Giving out punishments and rewards should be according to your children’s individual needs and give them things suited to their ages and interests.
Intervening in sibling conflict
Since you can’t always prevent sibling feuds, here are a few tips on how to peacefully intervene when your children are in the middle of a conflict.
No blame game
Most causes of sibling fights are unseen by parents. It only dawns that the “kids are at it again” when screaming, bickering, and crying are already in place. Don’t instantly believe your children’s blaming game and listen and assess their roles in the issue.
Listen and respect their feelings, even if it doesn’t justify their actions. Children are most likely to cooperate when they know they are being heard.
If a scolding or punishment is necessary, don’t do it in front of the other sibling. Instead, do it alone and privately. If you think doing it in front of others serves as an example, it might not. Instead, it creates an opportunity for teasing and taunting.
Have a family meeting
Gather the whole family and give everybody a chance to talk and say what they want to say. This is also a great opportunity to reinforce house rules.