How to End Sibling Rivalry
Why can’t they just get along?!? Let’s face it—no matter how nicely the kids are playing one minute, the next minute might bring tears, and even fights. Sibling rivalry happens in every house with more than one child, and at every age. It’s a common challenge, but that doesn’t mean it’s easy on your sanity.
Try to see it your kids’ way…as soon as your second child comes along, your first is demoted, plus your second child might just get tired of being bossed around by Big Sister all day long. After all, how would you feel if your spouse brought home someone else and expected the two of you to get along?
While you can’t stop sibling rivalry entirely, you can reduce its frequency. This means less yelling from the next room, and more peace in your home! Follow these guidelines to prevent sibling rivalry episodes, and to put a quick end to them once they start:
Lose the labels. When we talk about our “athletic one,” “smartie” or even our “wild child,” we create competition amongst our kids. What’s more, we shelve kids into one role or another—whether they like it or not. By ditching labels, we give our “not-so-athletic” child a chance to shine even if she’s not a star, the straight-B student the opportunity to be proud of her hard work, and the “wild child” a chance to do the right thing. The key is to cheer on positive attributes, such as teamwork, persistence and kindness. Siblings can then root for each other instead of competing for their parents’ approval.
2. Arrange for attention. One of the top reasons kids fight is to gain their parents’ attention—and even negative attention is better than nothing. Plan on giving each child at least 10-20 minutes of positive, individual attention every day, from each parent, and all of a sudden, your kids will learn they don’t have to fight to get you to look their way.
3. Prepare for peace. Your kids might need a refresher course on peaceful conflict resolution. Train them on how to take turns, use “I feel” statements, walk away and control their temper (counting to 10, taking a deep breath, etc.), and you’ll be able to ward off a lot of sibling arguments before they begin.
4. Stay out of squabbles. When you do hear a disagreement between your kids, ignore it—busy yourself elsewhere. Give them a chance to work it out on their own, and at the same time, you’ll remove the payoff they get from your attention.
5. Calm the conflict. If your kids clearly can’t reach an agreement, or if the fight escalates, you might have to step in. Listen to each child, encouraging “I feel” statements as they tell their story. Then, without placing blame or taking sides, ask them to come up with some solutions. If no one is able to come up with a workable resolution, suggest a few yourself, and help them reach an agreement.
6. Put them all in the same boat. If your kids still can’t agree, it’s time to put them “all in the same boat.” Hand down a consequence, for instance, “Either you can take turns with the game, or I will put it away for the rest of the day.” Then follow through.
With these strategies in place, you’ll be able to keep sibling rivalry and fighting to a minimum.
– Kyoshi Bill Wakefield