If you have more than one child, chances are sibling rivalry will happen at some point. The good news is sibling rivalry is a big challenge but learning how to manage it properly could help siblings learn how to negotiate, understand their differences and settle misunderstandings even in your absence.
You might be thinking it’s best to treat all your kids the same but won’t feel the same to them. Jealousy and demand for attention start to build up immediately you have your second child and your attention gets divided. Has your child ever asked “mum who do you love most between my brother and me? Or you see your child acting funny when you give the other a compliment.
It is your job as a parent to love equally and help them initiate friendly-loving bonds as siblings that will last forever. Even when you are gone or when life gets tough, you are sure your kids can count on each other, rely on each other and are happy for each other’s growth and wellbeing
What causes sibling rivalry?
This majorly occurs when you make it obvious that you prefer one to the other. Kids are not the same, one can be smarter, have good grades, be better at understanding, or even more beautiful. When you begin to praise one or even when outsiders do this, rivalry starts to develop. Also, when siblings begin to compete for their parent’s love and respect, a rivalry will begin to build up. Signs of sibling rivalry might include continuous arguments, hitting, name-calling.
What factors might affect how well siblings get along?
- If the age difference between your kids isn’t much, expect demand for respect soon enough.
- Children of the same sex might share more of the same interests and naturally, they will likely compete with each other especially the female gender.
- Middle children who might not get the same attention as the oldest or youngest child in the family especially when they are no one’s favourite.
How do you stop sibling rivalry?
- Avoid comparison: even in the worst moments, never compare your kids to each other or even other kids. You could cite an example using other adults but do not make it obvious that one child is better. One child may be good at science while the other is good with music. Normalize the idea of kids being different in their own way. Also, do not give names that could affect self-esteem e.g. goat-head, empty vessel, dullard.
- Take it away: if your kids keep fighting over things, instead of giving it to one, take it away from them, that’s a better way to settle disputes. If they keep fighting over which channel they want to watch, you make sure they agree to watch one together or the Tv goes off. This way, they begin to learn how to manage each other’s differences and tolerate themselves.
- Work it out: if taking away things leads to hours of crying and one feels cheated, make sure you settle the dispute immediately and give alternatives to the other. Also, it’s always better to talk about issues when they are calm and you have also thought about it carefully, so you don’t use harsh words that would hurt any of them. Although, some parents prefer when their kids settle a dispute on their own but when the matter begins to aggravate, step in, listen to both sides and ask them to apologize to each other
- Help one another: to stop sibling rivalry, encourage the older siblings to help the younger one and vice versa. For example, the older sibling can get water when the younger one is eating, the younger sibling can also help with tidying both beds. Although, it’s easy to mix things up here. Do not ask your older child to clean up a mess from your younger child every time or order one of your kids to finish up a task that was assigned to someone else.
- Respect each child's unique needs: sometimes rivalry starts when they think you always listen to the other child. Treating your children uniformly isn't always practical. Instead, focus on meeting each child's unique needs. For instance, your older child loves to play football but your younger child video games, enforcing indoor games might just seem like you are taking sides.
- Remind your children that everyone in the family has their own unique strengths and limitations
- Set Limits: in as much as you don’t want your older child to boss their younger ones around, you still need to create that gap and make them understand respect for each other. Your younger child shouldn’t say “Shut up, I will slap you” to his elder brother. Give clear communications, eye contacts that can put them to order. When your kids understand respect from home, it would be easier for them to relate with their peers and seniors at school. If one belittles the other, correct them by asking them to say nice things about the other.
Just in case your kids are already portraying traits of rivalry or you are an expectant mom thinking of how you will manage both kids, learn to encourage team spirit in your home. Ask them to do things together and spend more time playing, reading, sleeping and eating together. You could also ask your kids to suggest solutions and come up with ideas to settle dispute. Encourage them to put themselves in the other person’s shoes before making suggestions. Children who are taught how to manage disagreements in a constructively, tend to always care for others.
If you loved this and you learnt a lot, subscribe to our newsletters to catch up on amazing parenting tips.