Have kids they said. It will be fun they said. Some days, I am not sure the word fun is what I would use. Don’t get me wrong, I love being a mom and I can’t imagine not having my boys. However, some days I want to pull my hair out. I have just recently entered into the sibling rivalry stage. They are just now getting to the age where they both have personalities and likes/dislikes so the fighting has begun. So the question is how to handle sibling rivalry?
How to Handle Sibling Rivalry
Siblings fighting can be stressful and worrisome for parents. I know that a lot of worries run through my head about my boys fighting:
- one or more of them getting hurt
- hurting their self-esteem
- becoming bullies or being bullied
- afraid it will negatively affect their relationship as adults
Siblings bickering can lead to the parents feeling physically exhausted, mentally worn out, and wondering why by the end of the day.
Why Does Sibling Rivalry Occur?
Let’s take a minute and visit the why? Many problems can be solved if we take a moment to understand why. Here are some reasons for sibling rivalry:
- Frustration about something else
- Age difference
- Not wanting to share
- Major life changes in the family (death, starting school, moving, etc…)
- Physical differences (being tired, getting sick, etc…)
Related Post: 10 Ways to Help Your Children Deal with Change
These are just a few reasons why your children could be fighting. Sometimes, kids fight because they are worried about something else, but they don’t know how to verbalize their feelings. It will be up to you to determine the reason for your children fighting. However, you won’t always know why, but there are ways to handle the fighting.
1. Ditch labels
You might not even be aware of doing this. Sadly we live in a world that thrives on labels. However, when it comes to our kids this is not a good thing. We do not want to compare our children, even if it comes from a place of innocence. If you refer to one child as the “athletic one” you might inadvertently be encouraging your other children to not try to be more athletic. Why try if my parents think my sister is the “athletic one?”
Instead, encourage teamwork and kindness. This way your children can learn to cheer for each other instead of being constantly in competition with each other.
2. Schedule one-on-one time
Sometimes the reason that kids act out or argue is that they want attention. Negative attention is better than no attention at all. It is important to give your children attention, as a group, but also one-on-one time. I try to allow 10-15 minutes of one-on-one, uninterrupted time with each of my boys. Sometimes I do more, it depends on the day, but I always do 10-15 minutes. No distractions. I put my phone down and turn off the TV.
3. Encourage bonding from day one
From day one encourage bonding. I always tried to let my oldest “help” with his little brother. I wanted him to feel like being the big brother was a role that was extremely important and that he would hold a special place in his little brother’s heart. Nikola loved helping me get the diapers, wet wipes, or whatever little thing I needed for Sagan. It made him feel big and needed.
4. Stay out of the arguments
When you can it is important to stay out of the arguments. When your children are younger, you will need to step in a lot more than when they get older. The older your children are the more likely they will be able to settle the argument themselves, which is a great learning experience. However, just remember that if your children try to involve you DO NOT pick sides. Do not make this into one child being a “winner” and one child being a “loser.”
5. Set ground rules
If you are going to allow a little freedom when it comes to sibling rivalry, to give them the chance to problem-solve on their own, make sure you set some ground rules. Let them know that violence is unacceptable. Remember to praise your children when they resolve conflict peacefully and on their own. Try to encourage them to use “I feel” statements and take time-outs to cool off.
6. Set aside special space for each child
As your children get older, it will be extremely important for them to have their own space. It is important for them to feel like they have something that is their own and a place they can feel independent.
7. “Same-boat” punishment
If you end up having to step in, listen to all sides of the story. Encourage the children to come to an agreement on their own. If they can not reach an agreement, then I like to use what I call “same-boat” punishment. This is where all children get the same punishment. For example, if they are fighting over a game and can’t come to an agreement to share or take turns, then I would take away the game for the rest of the day. That way the punishment is the same, no one feels like a winner and eventually, your children will learn it is in their best interest to get along.
8. Do what works best for your family
Bottom line, as it is with most parenting choices, do what works best for your family. You know your kids better than anyone else so you know the best way to handle them.
Good Side of Sibling Rivalry?
So now that we have discussed, the why and ways to handle sibling rivalry, let’s discuss the good side. And yes, believe it or not, sibling rivalry does have some good.
1. Teaches problem-solving
Sibling rivalry can teach problem-solving. I love listening to my kids negotiate who gets to play with what and what cartoon they are going to watch in the mornings.
2. Teaches empathy and listening
Bickering can lead to lessons in empathy and listening. Both are skills that will be beneficial later in life.
3. Teaches self-control
When you are having to constantly deal with someone in your space or compromise to keep the peace, you learn self-control. Learning how to keep your temper in check is crucial to living a happy life.
In closing, remember to be patient. They are still learning and evolving into their own little personalities. It is very important to find a way to handle sibling rivalry. The sooner, the better. Do you have any tips for handling sibling rivalry? I would love to read about them in the comments.
“But those who hope in the LORD will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint.” Isaiah 40:31