Sure, once in awhile you might catch your children in a bonding moment so sweet that it renders you speechless. Your eldest shows her younger brother how to ride a bike steadily, without training wheels. Your three kids cuddle up on the couch, watching a movie and sharing a snack. But for every picture perfect moment, there’s another moment when your kids are squabbling over a beloved toy, or vying for attention and melting down due to jealousy. How do you handle sibling rivalry? Our tips will help you to create more harmony in your home.
- Don’t become the referee. Your children will benefit immensely from learning to defuse their own arguments, or solving the problems that arise between the two, or more, of them. Instead of questioning everyone’s behavior, asking who started it, and judging the situation, simply tell your kids that fighting is not allowed or tolerated, and that they must seek their own solution to their problem. If they can’t find a solution, ask them to walk away from one another and take some time to simmer down.
- Forget about fair. Kids will often come to you, demanding that a situation be “fair”. Life is not always fair for adults, either! Teaching children that some days things may not go their way is a valuable way for them to learn. For instance, maybe today your brother had more control over the remote control than you, but tomorrow, maybe you’ll get one more cookie than he will. Instead of letting their anger boil over, they may need to accept things for the way they are, and be grateful when they do get a bigger slice of the (sometimes literal) pie!
- Keep them separated. Sometimes, a fight cannot be “talked out”, and bringing up the main concerns of each child can allow tempers to flare even more. When tempers are raging and kids are confused by their own, often new, emotions, the best thing is often a half hour or so during which each child may play separately, quietly, and without interaction with the other. Often, hard feelings are forgotten, and it gives both children a chance to wind down, especially when their fight stemmed from pent-up frustration or energy.
- Teach kids that they are both accountable for their behavior. Unless one of your children is clearly bullying the other, chances are that both kids are contributing to the squabble in question. Regardless of who is right, who is wrong, or who started it, both children should receive equal discipline for engaging in an argument between fellow siblings.
- Manage jealousy. Jealousy often arises from insecurity, and has its root in something deeper than just the sibling argument at hand. When a fight ensues because of jealousy, defuse the argument and, if you sense that one child may feel envious of another’s talents, attention received, or position within the family, find subtle ways of letting that child know that you see him, you value him, and he is loved. Treat the problem at its source.
Does your family have a your own tactics for handling fighting and sibling rivalry? Maybe you’ve observed our daycare or childcare provider handle these types of issues expertly. Many childcare centers observe minor squabbles everyday, and have become pros at diffusing the tension. You can learn a lot from other parents, from teachers, and from caregivers!