As a parent to more than one child, one of the most difficult things you’ll have to deal with is sibling rivalry. Playing referee can be frustrating, exhausting, and will leave you wondering why they can’t just get along.
Managing sibling rivalry starts with understanding why it happens in the first place. From there, you’re better able to handle sibling rivalries as they happen and create a better outcome for everyone involved.
Understanding Why Sibling Rivalries Happen
Knowing what causes sibling rivalry will help you learn how to prevent it and manage it better when it does happen.
Family dynamics are the first thing to come into play. Remember, your kids are always competing against each other for your attention. That attention can feel like a win and it can make it difficult for the other child(ren) involved, causing arguments.
No matter the ages of your children, there will always be disagreements. Birth order is a key component when it comes to rivalries. Each one of your children is at a different developmental stage. For example, they could be jealous of what the other is able to do simply because they are older or they could be jealous that the younger child gets more attention.
Even the smallest changes can help you better understand your children and make the right choices when it comes to resolving conflict between them. We’ve gathered 7 tips to help you manage sibling rivalry.
7 Tips to Manage Sibling Rivalry
- Take time to cool off – It’s not always possible to intervene before a situation escalates. When it does happen, make sure you allow both parties some time to cool off when things get heated. Taking this time allows for your kids to regain their focus and be more open to resolving any issues. And don’t forget that it’s important for you to do this as well! You’ll also set yourself up as a great role model for your kids to know how to behave when tempers flare.
- Encourage compromise – Again, you can help set the tone when it comes to modeling compromise and cooperation. It can be difficult sometimes, but avoiding yelling and slamming doors when you and your significant other have a disagreement can show your kids a better way to handle their problems. Encourage a cooperative environment by creating opportunities for your children to work together for a common goal. Avoid comparing your kids to one another or showing favoritism. If rivalry is an ongoing issue, avoid situations where there may be a competition.
- Treat your child as an individual – Each one of your kids are different. That’s why they’re so special. Let them hear how much you love the things that make them an individual. Celebrate differences and encourage them to take their own path. Spend some time alone with each child to support what they love and show them that you care about who they are. Allow them to have the time and opportunity to explore their individual interests. Letting your children know that you appreciate their individuality can lead to less rivalry.
- Focus on what they need – Your kids are at different ages and stages. This means that they have different needs. Things will not always be equal. But you can do your best to make things fair. Think about your child’s needs and what they respond to most. Just knowing that your children need different things will help you better understand how to manage your response to any rivalries.
- Punish in private – If you need to set a punishment for your child, try to do so in private. Don’t shame them in front of each other. Doing so can create more animosity between them. Take each child aside to talk with them about what they did wrong and how they can make better choices in the future. Share their punishment with them and allow them the opportunity to learn a lesson without having their siblings involved.
- Let them feel heard – When your children are arguing, they are a ball of emotions. Emotions however don’t mean that your child has an excuse for negative behavior. Make them feel heard and encourage them to express those emotions with words. Allow each child the opportunity to say how they’re feeling and don’t interrupt. Respect their feelings and encourage them to do the same for one another. Teach your children that it’s important to take the time to listen to what the other person has to say and that they will have the opportunity to be heard.
- Find opportunities for fun – Think about ways your whole family can enjoy some time together. When you’re having a good time, your children are more focused on the activity rather than what the other has or is doing. Have a family game night, head to a local park, or watch a movie together. It’s a perfect way for your kids to bond and you’ll be making some great memories at the same time!
Above all, try to be patient. Know that learning how to manage sibling rivalry takes time. Eventually you can feel more confident knowing that your children will be able to solve problems and deal with conflict as they get older.
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