How to manage sibling rivalry
Sibling rivalry is any feeling of jealousy, competition or enmity towards one’s sibling(s). It may or may not be mutual. For parents, any form of it in any extent can be very challenging to deal with.
The following points may assist you in dealing with sibling rivalry in your children:
- Start before they start:
- First off, try to have a gap of at least 3 years in between your children. Children who are closer in regards to age tend to be more competitive fearing a loss of their identity in the other.
- Always maintain a calm and co-operative environment in the house. If you get angry often or punish your children physically, the children will be prone to pick up those habits.
- Start talking to your older children about their new sibling even before the birth of the child. Make them a part of Team Baby. Show them the baby bump; let them feel the baby move inside – this will make the experience real. Let them help their mother in her pregnancy and take them with you to shop for the upcoming member of the family.
- Tell them stories of their childhood and how that time was as wonderful as now. It will make them feel equally loved as their new sibling.
- Make the older children feel important:
- Right after the birth of the new child, most parents get occupied with the new child and the mother. It is important that during this time, the older child does not feel ignored. Like earlier, here the father can seek for their assistance to help the mother with the new child.
- It is also important that the mother reassures that older children are equally important by spending some time with them alone.
- Look out for any intended or accidental harmful behaviour. Deal kindly but firmly with the situation. Tell them to behave nicely so that their new sibling can learn from them when they grow up.
- Raise them to be empathetic:
- Avoid punishing a child in front of another. Instead, if someone does something wrong, gather all your children together and tell them why and how they went wrong. Do not make anyone feel favoured or ignored.
- Do not compare. If you compare, they will start competing among themselves for your attention and approval.
- Your children may have different interests and their achievements may vary depending on the field they are engaging in. Appreciate their respective achievements and encourage them to learn from one another where they lag.
- Direct them to raise their problems to their older siblings and encourage the older children to help the younger. It may surprise you how easily children solve each other’s problems sometimes.
- It has been observed that siblings who share a room or sleep together are more empathetic to each other.
- Intervene when there is fight:
- If they engage in a fight, be it aggressive or passive, do not ignore it thinking that it’s petty or that some fights are normal – keep an eye on the status of it and if they fail to resolve it themselves, intervene.
- Listen to both of them. Do not take a side even if one is correct – an immature mind may mistake it for partiality. Passively ask them to look into the situation from the other’s point of view. If the fight is over a material thing, teach them about sacrifice and sharing.
- You often cannot treat your children equally since both privileges and responsibilities grow with age. For example, if your younger children find it unfair that their older siblings get to use a cell phone, tell them it is because they need to use it to communicate with their classmates or teachers to talk about assignments. Be fair and show your children how these two aspects of life are proportionate to each other.
- Encourage team work and have more ‘Family Time’:
- Make time to spend with the entire family. Motivate your children to talk about their feelings. If someone does not want to talk, do not force. But ask them to listen to what the other people have got to say – this may prompt themr to open up later.
- Encourage team work. Play small family games with parents on one side and children on the other. Instead of assigning children different tasks to do, encourage them to work together or divide a work by themselves.
- Look out for social influences:
- Be observant of who your children hang out with. If they are in a social contact with someone who feels competitive towards their sibling, they may pick that trait up.
- In case your children are of different sexes, try to maintain a gender neutral environment in the house. Converse with your children about the biased attitude of the society and help them deal with it. Be cautious and see to it that none of your children get any superiority complex or look down upon the children of the other sex.
Sibling rivalry, though very common, is not healthy. After all, siblinghood is a bond of life. Help your children build a strong emotional bond among themselves to ensure a strong social support system.