As a parent, it’s hard to watch your kids not get along. Foster a positive environment with these tips on how to deal with sibling rivalry, while keeping the peace at home. These family connection cards keep the communication open while being silly and fun together as a family.
How to Deal with Sibling Rivalry (While Keeping the Peace at Home)
Whether it’s over who gets the last cookie or who chooses the family movie, siblings often bicker with each other. Despite it being a regular occurrence among many families, sibling rivalry is never something that a family should normalize. This is when the normal annoyances between siblings turn into resentment and negative feelings towards one another. Here are some tips on how to deal with sibling rivalry!
Sibling rivalry is when there is competition for the attention of the parents between brothers and sisters. As a parent, it can be difficult to watch your kids not get along. Kids can quickly go from best friends to enemies.
Age plays a big factor in this transition. Most adults claim that their siblings were terrible at some point!
However, this sibling rivalry doesn’t just disappear on its own. If left alone, it can grow into something much worse and linger well into adulthood.
This looks like resentment, anger, and even hatred.
Most parents don’t know where to begin with sibling rivalry. But there’s plenty you can do as a parent to encourage a better relationship between siblings.
What Causes Sibling Rivalry?
Age and individual temperaments will play the biggest factors behind sibling rivalry. For instance, young children often don’t have a grasp of proper social skills and resort to extreme emotions quickly. They might feel possessive and assertive over their things because they have yet to learn how and when to share.
On the other hand, older siblings may resent having to take care of younger siblings. Or, they miss being coddled by their parents in the way their younger sibling might be.
External factors like stress can make kids more irritable and likely to lash out around them. The overall culture of the world can also be at play for things like gender and status.
Overall, it comes from siblings feeling like things are currently unfair, or they are not getting the same treatment. Parents unknowingly create jealousy between siblings and also fail to interfere when they see this rivalry happening.
Examples of Sibling Rivalry
Kids are going to fight. Before you can help them, you have to learn how to deal with sibling rivalry! You will want to keep an eye out for when this teasing and annoyances turn into arguing and fighting.
Look out for any name-calling. Kids of all ages will come up with names meant just to annoy a sibling.
Whatever you do, never use the same language as the kids. This name-calling can lead to verbal sparring where kids are fighting with one another using hurtful words.
Kids will often try to use the parents to get back at the other sibling. They will tell on each other, whether or not they’re being truthful.
Oftentimes, siblings will steal items from each other. They might use them for themselves or hide them so that their sibling can’t use them.
Lastly, any of these can lead to your children getting physical with each other. No matter their age or gender, this should never be allowed as it fosters extreme sibling rivalry.
Watch your Own Language
When it comes to learning how to deal with sibling rivalry, the best place to start is by changing your own behavior.
Be very careful about what you say to your children about each other. Never compare your children to one another. Lines such as, “Your brother likes to go to hockey,” or “Your sister eats all her vegetables,” can foster this resentment. You may think that phrases like these encourage kids to work harder, but really it hurts their self-esteem.
Besides comparing, avoid favoring one child over one another. Each kid is special in their own way, and this should be embraced. Any time you show favoritism, you set up the kids for competition against each other.
Avoid labeling your children. No one should be known as the “difficult one” or “the smart one.”
Commit to Quality Time
Each parent should spend some alone time with every child. Ideally, this should take place every day and should account for at least 10 minutes. A story before bed, tossing the ball in the backyard, watching a YouTube video, and any other activities together allow you to connect and catch up with your kids individually.
If there’s extreme sibling rivalry happening, this is also a good time to check in about their feelings towards their siblings.
Ask them to name some positive things about their sibling to remind them of the good in the relationship. Then, ask them about any problems or issues they’re currently having with their sibling. This allows you to keep tabs on what’s going on.
Really listen to what they have to say and avoid getting defensive or showing favoritism when they tell you. This moment is all about building trust and trying to help get to the bottom of deeper issues.
End the talk by reminding them how special they are and thanking them for being so honest with you.
Kids need to be themselves! As parents, it’s easy to push our own interests on our children. You may love playing hockey yourself, but your kid might be more interested in learning piano.
Never push your child to do something they don’t like. As long as it’s not dangerous or unhealthy, let them do their thing.
If your other child does share those same interests as you, don’t let that get in the way of your enthusiasm for your other child’s interests. Commit just as much time to go to hockey games as you are to piano recitals!
Look for Patterns in Sibling Fighting
So, still figuring out how to deal with sibling rivalry? Let’s take a look at how and when your kids are fighting.
When do your kids tend to fight the most? Certain times of days can lead to more fighting. Perhaps this happens on the car ride home from school or at home before dinner when the kids are feeling hangry.
Changing the routine can help to avoid these irritable times. Try to get them busy in their own regards and separated.
For example, enrolling them in after-school activities can help foster their interests while also preventing sibling fighting. Or, turn that time before dinner into chore time, so they each have their own tasks and responsibilities to distract them before food.
Mediating as the Parent
When siblings fight, it’s essential that you step in as the parent. You are the main mediator and have to ensure things don’t get taken too far.
Avoid taking sides when your children are fighting, no matter how apparent it is who is at fault. This helps to prevent any kind of lying or tattling. Let everyone tell their side of the story calmly without any yelling or finger pointing.
Instead, encourage everyone to brainstorm for a solution! Don’t fully come up with the solution for them.
Work on problem-solving together by asking them questions and see if they can find a happy resolution. This shows them that it’s possible to work together and share when they need to.
Plan Family Activities
Siblings who spend less time together are more likely to fight. Luckily, this is something you easily have control over as a parent. Besides quality time with each sibling, the whole family also needs daily time together.
Family dinners tend to be the easiest way to get this quality time. Beyond dinners, also plan fun family activities on the weekends and vacations too for extended time together in a positive environment.
And, in the event of a fight, you’re there to be the mediator. You can see where some of the hostility and issues are coming from and hopefully work to prevent them in the future.
Conduct Family Meetings
There is so much value in hosting family meetings, especially in dealing with sibling rivalry. Family meetings are regularly scheduled times (weekly, monthly, etc.) where the whole family sits down and discusses what’s going on. This can mean planning for upcoming activities, talking about everyone’s days, and working on any current familial issues.
During family meetings, allow everyone to share their opinions and point of view uninterrupted. This helps to teach kids to talk things out rather than resorting to arguing or getting physical.
Coming up with solutions as a family helps to build trust and cooperation. Kids will also learn when to take responsibility for their actions.
Family meetings are unique to each family with their own rules. To make the family meeting a little more fun, pair it with an activity like movie night, so kids are excited about the upcoming meeting.
Preventing Sibling Rivalry
There are small things you can do to help prevent any kind of fighting from happening. A big part of that comes down to encouraging positive behavior.
When siblings are getting along, embrace it. For example, if they nicely ask to borrow something or calmy get the other’s attention, praise them for their good efforts.
You can also focus on your child’s everyday strengths to build their individual self-esteem. Tell them how good they are at drawing, cleaning up, reading, brushing their teeth, etc.
While mild forms of sibling rivalry are common, it’s okay to need outside help. It’s exhausting and difficult as a parent to constantly see your kids at odds with one another. Anything that is frequent or violent needs professional assistance.
A licensed family counselor can help with extreme sibling rivalry. The earlier, the better! Sibling rivalry that extends into adulthood can be much more difficult to deal with.
Related & Helpful Articles about Positive Parenting
- 10 Ways To Keep Your Family Connection Strong
- How to Stop Sibling Fighting: Why Your Kids Need You to be a Sports Announcer, Not a Referee
- Helping To Develop Strong Coping Skills For Kids
- How To Raise Resilient Kids
- 11 Helpful Tips For Parents With Strong-Willed Children
- Sibling Rivalry: Create a Loving Bond Between Your Kids
- Raising Kind Kids: Teaching Intentional Acts Of Kindness