Family Parenting

Are any families immune from sibling rivalry? Yes—families with only one child!

All brothers and sisters fight at least sometimes. It is a natural part of life. There are a lot of reasons siblings fight, but the main reason is that they are competing with each other for a precious limited resource: your time and attention.

The fact is, all brothers and sisters fight at least sometimes. There are a lot of reasons siblings fight, but the main reason is that they are competing with each other for a precious limited resource: your time and attention. This is why sibling rivalry often starts even before the second child is born, as older children begin to see their [tag-ice]parents[/tag-ice] attention diverted to the new baby.  
It can be frustrating and upsetting to hear and see your kids fight, so what steps can you take to promote peace in your [tag-self]family[/tag-self] and to help your kids get along? Here are some ideas:

  • If you are expecting a new baby, include older children in the preparations. They can pick out a special toy for the new baby, offer suggestions for a name, give input on decorating the nursery, and more. Check with the hospitals in your area too—many hospitals have special classes for big brothers and sisters to help them learn what it’s like to have a baby in the house. They may even get a tour of the hospital nursery.
  • Remember that all your children are different people, with different moods, interests, needs, and temperaments. Don’t expect your children to act the same or to like the same things. Make sure they all have space and time for their interests and activities.
  • Never compare your children to each other. That will just make everyone feel resentful and jealous. 
  • Give each of your kids regular one-on-one time and attention.
  • Work together to set family rules for acceptable behavior, such as no slamming doors and no yelling
  •  Don’t fall into the “fairness trap” of thinking you need to treat your children equally all the time. Your job is to meet each child’s unique needs. Younger children need to go to bed earlier because they need more sleep. One child may need new shoes while the other doesn’t yet. Fairness has nothing to do with it—it’s just life.
  • Reward appropriate behavior. Notice when your kids are getting along and comment on it.
Unfortunately, no matter what you do, your [tag-tec]kids[/tag-tec] are still going to fight sometimes. When a fight erupts, try not to get involved unless your children are hurting one another physically or emotionally. Instead, let your kids try to work out their problems themselves. This will help them learn negotiation and compromise skills that will benefit them their whole lives. 
If you do need to step in, behave like a coach rather than a parent. Your job at this point is to guide your children through a negotiation, not to take sides or try to find out who is at fault. Initially, it may be helpful to separate the kids for a while until everyone has calmed down. When you do talk, you may need to suggest appropriate words your children can use to express themselves. In addition, set some discussion guidelines, such as 
  • No name-calling or insulting each other
  • Take turns talking. If necessary, bring out a “talking stick,” explaining that only the person holding the stick can talk.
  • Ask each child to repeat and rephrase what the other child said, so you can be sure everyone is listening to and understanding each other
  • Acknowledge your children’s anger, but help them learn non-harmful ways to express it 
Above all, make sure you are having fun together as a family! Playing a game, going for a walk, cooking dinner together—do whatever you can to build good memories and feelings among your children. If nothing else, this will give YOU something pleasant to think about the next time a sibling battle erupts! 
Stacey Schifferdecker is the happy but harried mother of three school-aged children—two boys and a girl. She is also a freelance writer, a Children’s Minister, a PTA volunteer, and a Scout leader. Stacey has a Bachelor’s degree in Communications and French and a Master’s degree in English. She has written extensively about parenting and education as well as business, technology, travel, and hobbies.

No part of this article may be copied or reproduced in any form without the express permission of More4Kids Inc © 2006


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