Wednesday, April 6, 2011

How can I stop sibling rivalry?

If you have more than one child, sibling rivalry is inevitable.  Sorry to break the news, but it is.  Most parents see only the negative side of sibling rivalry; however; it can be a good thing too.  Human relationships grow closer through strife.  When I argue with my husband or a friend, the process of working through our disagreement brings us closer together.  Children need to be given the opportunity to learn to work out disagreements with people in their life and the place they begin to do this is at home with brothers and sisters. 

These arguments can range from not sharing a toy to screaming and punching.  As a parents we worry that our children will really hurt each other, both physically and emotionally.  Though completely stopping sibling rivalry is not possible, there are a few things you can do to help manage it. 

Sibling rivalry starts pretty much the moment a new child enters the house.  The way you introduce your new child to your older children can make a big difference.  As you talk to your older children, tell them what it will be like to have a new brother or sister.  Let your children know a few ways they can help the new child.  Be sure to say that you have enough love to go around.  Warning them that you will need to spend time with the new child will help prepare them for the transition.  Reassure them that you will always make time for them too.

This individual time with each child is going to be one of the most important ways you curb the disagreements between your children.   Spending individual time with each of your children will work to meet the emotional needs they have for connection.  As you meet your children's need to be with you, they will have less need to lash out at his siblings.  

One mistake parents frequently make is believing that being fair to their children means you treat them exactly the same.  Each one of your children has different things they are good at and things they struggle with.  Giving them the same treatment can actually work to drive a wedge between them and cause more arguments.  On the surface it seems like the opposite would be true, having uneven rules and rewards would cause your children to be jealous that the other child is “allowed” to do something that they are not.  

It all goes back to the emotional needs of your children being met.  If your child senses that he is being recognized and celebrated for the things he is good at and given extra help in the areas he is not, he will be less likely to feel the need to argue and fight with his siblings.   There will always be rules everyone has to follow, but it is important to look at the individual child’s gifts and problems.  

Look back next week for some tips on how to respond when your children fight. 

1 comment:

maggie said...

Hey Marcia, This is a great blog post!

As a mother of 3 boys (for whom you were Star Nanny for 8 years!! :) I know the truth of what you write. Even now, with the boys being 12, 14 and 16, they need that individual time and the recognition of who they are as separate people, and help with their unique problems.

Not only are you a great nanny and family coach, you are also a good writer! Congrats!

Much love to you,