How to Help Your Kids Overcome Sibling Rivalry
Having kids can be such a fun thing. The little people running around your living room are each other’s constant in-house playmates. Their giggles and antics can brighten any day, and it’s a joy to watch them grow up together.
That is, until they decide they don’t like each other. Remember — they’re constantly in the same house together. Fights, tricks, and jealousy are bound to happen. It doesn’t matter how much you try to avoid this. Sibling rivalry is real, and it’s going to happen.
You don’t have to let it run rampant, though. Don’t forget that you’re the parent, and you do have some control. To help your children get past their kid-to-kid conflicts, give these six strategies a try.
1. Offer a Taste of Technology
These days, smartphones rank highly among kids’ most prized possessions. Older kids use them to keep in constant contact with their friends. They text, they chat online, and they hop into group video calls. It’s cool stuff, so it’s only natural for a younger child to feel envious and hanker for the same thing.
Just because your little one wants a smartphone, though, doesn’t make it a good idea. They may not be as responsible or mature as their older sibling. Fortunately, there is something you can do so they don’t feel left behind. Consider getting them a kids phone that doesn’t offer social media or internet access. Your younger child can still call, text, and take photos, so they’ll feel they’re getting some of the same experience.
2. Don’t Make Comparisons
All children are unique, even if they have the same parents. Your kids have different strengths, different habits, and different interests. Sometimes that’s easy to forget. Try to keep it top of mind, though, so you don’t directly compare them.
Asking one child why they can’t be more like their sibling could make them feel inferior. It may make that child think their sibling is smarter, stronger, or more talented. If they believe you favor their brother or sister, they’ll resent it. That’s when you can expect the fighting to start.
3. Keep It Cooperative
Many siblings are naturally competitive. They want to outdo each other. It might be for your praise, or it could be for simple bragging rights. Truthfully, the reason may not matter. You still need to keep it to a minimum to avoid too much arguing.
Find ways to encourage cooperation and collaboration. Give them a 3D puzzle or a bird house they must work together to finish. They’ll need teamwork to complete those projects.
Yes, arguments will still happen. That means you’ll want to be sure you and your partner have set a good example for how to handle disagreements. You kids will mimic what they see you do. So try to have calm discussions instead of yelling and slamming doors.
4. Be Fair, Not Equal
Of course it’s your job to be sure your kids feel you love them equally. They need to know and believe that you treat them all fairly. Take note, though, that fair doesn’t really mean equal. It means you’re parenting each child in a way that best suits their personality.
Your kids aren’t clones, so treating them like they are can breed some jealousy and anger. For example, giving both kids new Hot Wheels when one wanted Pokémon cards could create a problem. One will be happy — the other will feel slighted.
It’s the same with discipline. Taking away video games when only one kid cares about them can feel like you’re showing favoritism. So be careful that you’re responding to your kids based on their individuality. It will help keep the rivalry to a minimum.
5. Keep Discipline Between You Two
Speaking of discipline, who enjoys being reprimanded in front of other people? No one, and that includes your children. If your kids end up needing consequences for a fight, talk about it with each of them separately. These types of conversations are personal and aren’t made for other ears.
Discussing what your child did wrong with others present can make them feel worse. It also gives their sibling a chance to add their two cents or make fun. That can create even more problems between them. These discussions need to be a private time for you to teach each of your children individually. You want to correct behavior, not create a foundation for more conflict.
6. Plan Family Time
There’s a lot of emphasis on being sure you give each of your children some one-on-one time with you. That matters for building close relationships. Don’t discount family time, though. You need plenty of that, too, so your kids will feel like you’re all one big team.
Plan a weekly family game night. Sit down to meals together with no TV or smartphones. Take day trips to explore new places. These are the times when you’ll create treasured memories as a family unit. Your children will feel closer to each other as a result of these shared experiences and be less likely to fight.
When you have more than one kid in the house, there’s going to be lots of energy and laughter. There will also be jealousy, hurt feelings, and more than a few arguments. While that’s normal, you can keep it to a minimum. Bear these six tips in mind, and you’ll be well on your way to warding off sibling rivalry.