If you have two or more kids at home, you’ve probably had to break up at least one fight over a toy, video game, or even ice cream flavor. Sometimes you also have to deal with screaming arguments about who is the preferred child or who gets the most attention from the parents.
Sibling rivalry is a common concern for parents with multiple kids under the same roof. It can start immediately after the birth of the second child and last… well, forever! Whatever the cause of conflict, such rivalry is inevitable. Fortunately, there are a few ways you can try to minimize fights and arguments, helping your children get along better.
Let’s take a look at some recommendations for preventing and dealing with sibling rivalry to pacify the home once and for all.
Signs of Rivalry
The best way to deal with sibling rivalry is to identify its earliest signs and try to understand the causes. Children usually fight over the order of birth out of jealousy of the treatment that the other receives and to get more attention from their parents, but it’s not limited to that: some factors like the need to protect “their” toys from a brother or sister can also ignite the next fight.
These are some of the behaviors that allow you to identify the rivalry:
- The siblings address each other by derogatory nicknames.
- One sibling breaks or hides the other’s toys or possessions.
- The children criticize what the other does – sometimes as a joke, but often with sincerity.
- Frequent discussions for futile reasons.
- They poke each other with greater or lesser violence (pulling hair, pinching, exchanging slaps).
Some of these signs are more problematic than others. Without your intervention to alleviate the environment, they could become more serious. For example, the name-calling that at first seems just fun can turn into name-calling capable of leaving children emotionally hurt. On the other hand, “playful” aggressions can evolve into a very real exchange of punches and kicks.
Arguments and fights are inevitable, and the important thing is that you know how to address them, at least before your home becomes a battlefield. But it’s necessary to understand that it’s not always a child’s fault. Parents or other relatives may also be motivating rivalry, even if unintentionally, by showing more affection for one or the other child.
Here are some behavioral changes you need to make yourself:
Stop using labels that might encourage troublesome behavior, such as “thinner/fatter,” “taller/shorter,” “smart one,” “better at sports,” etc.
Use your children’s birth order to understand the feelings and needs they may have.
Put down your phone and give each child a few minutes of unconditional attention daily.
When gifting your children (even if it’s a pair of kids’ glasses for one of them), be careful to treat them equally and not display favoritism.
Never force children to be friends with their siblings, as this process should come naturally.
Laying Down the House Rules
If conflict is unavoidable, at least you can try to minimize damage by establishing a system of rules – the “family rules” or “house rules” that everyone must follow, including parents.
Talk to your kids repeatedly about how they should deal with anger (no violence or no bad language), what family values to follow (e.g., treat each other with respect always), and the personal boundaries regarding room or things.
A symbolic punishment can also be set for anyone who injures or damages another’s toys, clothes, and property. That way, little by little and with diplomacy, you will be able to put out the fires before they spread uncontrollably.
Healthy Sibling Relationships Take Time
If you can get through your kid’s childhood and adolescence without facing any episodes of sibling rivalry, either you’re the luckiest person in human history, or you just weren’t there (or didn’t care about it).
Healthy sibling relationships are built over time and require everyone to be very patient – parents and children. You will hardly be able to avoid all fights and arguments, but you can prevent or calm them down more quickly.
Your kids will always be looking for ways to get your attention, so you should be prepared for that. After all, being a father is not just about enjoying those moments of peace and happiness. Or don’t you remember when you were the jealous sibling of the family?
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