That is mine! Give it back! Leave me alone! He said this! She did that! Moan, moan, moan… Let’s be honest, constant bickering among siblings can leave a less-than-pleasant air about the house. And, although conflict is an inevitable and normal function within a family, it can also become a bit much. However, there are ways to go about cutting down on sibling rivalry in the household.
Fighting the good fight
Often, conflict arises when children compete with one another for their parent’s attention. During an argument, it is the parent’s role to encourage the children to solve the problem in a way that will build rather than strain their relationship. Deciding who is in the right and wrong could add additional tension rather than neutralize the situation. For example, blaming one child may encourage him or her to fight harder for approval, which will put additional strain on the relationship.
Instead of arguing, encourage your children to talk matters through and to draw up a compromise. Teach your children how to resolve their problems and disagreements in respectful and non-aggressive ways and talk to them about how siblings should treat one another. Adopt a philosophy centered on the concept that, as a family, you should all support and help each other. Remember that, as parents, you are your children’s greatest role models, so base your own behavior on this philosophy.
Parents should also be careful of placing children into the role of being either ‘the good kid’ or ‘the bad kid’. This could spark envy and may even result in parents enforcing unfair punishment on ‘the bad kid’. Be aware that anyone involved in a conflict is very likely to share some responsibility. Also, labeling a child as ‘a bad kid’ may encourage the child to fulfill this role and could give up trying to do anything right because they are always getting blamed.
It’s also important for parents to draw up clear boundary lines. For example, enforcing a ‘no fighting in the house’ policy. This should be applicable to both children and will hold both of them equally accountable for their behavior, provided you know that there is some equity in how the behavior is being conducted and in who’s starting it. Teach your children that they, rather than their siblings, are accountable for their own behavior and how they choose to react.
Often sibling rivalry stems from the competing for a parents approval or attention. It’s best not to give minor squabbles any attention. Do not interfere, but again, rather encourage your children to work things out amongst themselves. If you do have to step in, you can reach a parental compromise or enforce a ‘no fighting in the house’ policy. If the situation escalates, you can stop the action by making both children go to separate rooms. They are then only allowed to emerge when both siblings have given one another permission to do so.
Always remember that your children are individuals and by treating them so, you can minimize their competing for attention. Ensure that you give each child equal amounts of attention and affection and try to spend alone time with each child, doing something that he or she enjoys. By giving enough love and setting limits on the amount of bickering going on in the household, you are taking big steps in diminishing sibling rivalry.