If you have more than one child (or you have siblings), you know all too well the struggle of sibling warfare.
While it is normal and may seem harmless at first, it can easily get out of control and can oftentimes lead to developing bad (bullying) habits later in life when not addressed.
Children mostly act through emotions, so it’s our duty as their parents to teach them healthy ways to respond and act both physically and mentally.
Here are five tips for stopping (or defusing) sibling rivalry:
- Hold everyone responsible. Sure, the older brother may have started it, but the younger sister probably had her part if it led to bickering and fighting. Hold all parties responsible with the same consequence regardless of who started, etc. An early bedtime, no dessert, no friends over are all consequences that can be applied to all kids.
- Set expectations. It’s as simple as the Golden Rule. Treat others how you would like to be treated. Make sure you set expectations within your family of how you treat others – with kindness, respect, and sympathy. Not with fighting, mean words or bullying. Make sure these are clearly stated consistently so they stick.
- Show support all-around. Jealousy can play a big role in sibling rivalry. It may be difficult for one child to accept the others success, so create an environment of support and make sure to include everyone. One may have won a medal at their team sport, but maybe the other just completed a new book. Reward and emphasize both accomplishments. Jealousy develops when one child is rewarded more.
- Avoid comparisons. It may be difficult, but try to avoid comparing one child to another. We are all different and so is each child. Comparing often also leads to jealousy or anxiety and can make kids act out and fight as they start comparing themselves to each other and begin the “one-upping” debate.
- Separation can lead to appreciation. Sometimes the best resolution to bickering and fighting is separation. But not just for a few minutes. If you are able, make it a rule that they cannot play together for a full day because of their fighting. By the end of the day they will be begging to play with each other again and will hopefully appreciate each others company more.
TKD Tip: Sometimes we all just need a good yell to get out our anger, frustration, or whatever emotion may be running its course. It’s healthy to let things out, but in a way that is okay. If you find your children yelling and screaming at each other for whatever reason, put them across the backyard or a longer distance away from each other and make them yell “I love you” as loud as they can at each other. They’ll be releasing their tension through yelling, but are saying something positive while also tiring themselves out. Most likely they will get a few in and then be done.
Parent/Child Activity: Each child has their own triggers that set them off to start misbehaving or act out, especially at a sibling. Sit down individually with each of your children and talk with them about what may set them off. Is it more attention? Is it tattling? Have them tell you, or write them down, and then brainstorm ideas together to try to avoid a tantrum, bickering, or sibling throw down. Maybe it’s walking away from the situation or holding their tongue, but writing down what they really wanted to say to get it out.