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Dealing with Sibling Rivalry

Dealing with Sibling Rivalry

Since the dawn of time, brothers and sisters have been involved in some type of rivalry. Competition between siblings can be traced back to biblical times – Cain and Able.

Parents caught in the middle of this battle of wills are often at their wit’s end and in most cases, try very hard to ignore the torrent of complaints which consist of -Stacey hit me! or -Jason is taking my doll! . However, even the most patient of parents eventually crack under the pressure and they feel that their single and sole purpose in life is to act as a referee, continually forced to pick sides, stand up for the underdog and choose between their children.


Nipping it in the Bud

Sibling rivalry is essentially negative and in a bid to deal with it effectively, parents must adopt positive parenting skills. These skills will force them to take a few step backs, watch on the sidelines and make it clear to their battling offspring that they will not pick sides and they will no longer be dragged into these petty debates. The bottom line is that if sibling rivalry is not dealt with, it can have a ripple effect throughout the entire family structure and what starts off with Jason running off with Stacy’s doll ends up with mom and dad arguing!

One of the main reasons why siblings fight or argue is to receive attention. For the most part, children want attention – even negative attention will do. Showing their brother or sister up to be the -baddy’ will give them the attention of their parents – who they hope will make a fuss over them and scold their sibling for their -bad’ actions. Kids who feel that their sibling are treated better than they are or favoured more, tend to lash out and cause an argument, just to get attention and to get their -favoured brother or sister in trouble.  This favouring may be as trivial as dishing out an extra sweet, or buying one a pair of shoes (and not the other)!


What to do?

If sibling rivalry is alive and well in your home, take a deep breath and console yourself with the fact through positive actions, parents are able to reduce the intensity of sibling rivalry (it will never go away completely!)

  •   Make time for each child. Try to spend time alone and get to know each child as an individual.
  •   Never criticise one child in front of the other, and never talk about a child to their siblings.
  •   Celebrate each child’s achievements – do not neglect to compliment a child (even at the risk of hurting the other’s feelings). Through this a child will learn that positive actions earn rewards. However it is vitally important that parents never compare one child to another. A child must be made to feel unique and special in their own right and when one is compared to the other; one always feels less favoured, less special or less cleaver.
  •   Do not get involved in an argument. Remember children are looking for attention and if they are given this attention, they will look for ways to create discord, knowing that the parent will step in and become involved. Parents are urged to stand back and make it clear that they are not going to sort out the problem and the siblings have to find a way on their own to a solution.
  •   Keep children busy. When kids are entertained and their minds active, they will have no time to plot their revenge for those new shoes which Jason received.  Come up with fun, family games where siblings need to form teams to win and through this they will learn that they need to rely on each other to win the prize.


Remember the golden rule – use positive actions to defuse a negative situation

Even though the number of fights and arguments between siblings may be reduced, rivalry between kids will never be eliminated and parents should (rather than getting worked up about it) accept it is par for the course. In some cases, a mild form of competition between siblings can be positive, as kids try harder in an attempt to achieve better marks! Arguments and debates are not necessarily bad, as kids learn to express their feelings (in a controlled method) and voice their opinion.

The golden rule for parents: Step back and remove yourself from the situation

At the end of the day, kids will be kids and it is to be expected that there are times when tempers will flair and angry words will be exchanged. The role of a parent is to serve as a guide and help children deal with their anger and their frustration. The funny thing is with sibling rivalry, as quickly as it erupts it subsides just a fast and within a few minutes, they are happily playing together. As long as parents do not pick sides, most siblings will resolve their differences – sometimes it is the parents that prolong the effects of sibling rivalry!


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