7 Tips to Deal with Sibling Rivalry


What do you do when your children rival each other?

I often hear responses like, “I leave them to sort themselves out”,

“I don’t interfere, they will outgrow it”,

“It’s normal, they will learn how to interact that way” etc.

Today, many siblings are only related by blood and that’s because they can’t undo it. They have drifted apart due to rivalry that started when they were children.

I wonder if my brothers would have bonded more if my parents hadn’t followed the advice of “Don’t interfere when your children fight, they will settle it among themselves.”

While I understand that interfering may lead to side-taking, I also understand that sibling rivalry is an opportunity for intentional parents to teach life skills to their children.

Skills such as: tolerance, sharing, forgiveness, respect, teamwork, standing up to bullies, standing up for oneself etc.

The truth is, sibling rivalry is sometimes like role playing what the child will face in the larger society.

If you work with children, you would know that some children are bullies while some are perpetual victims.

If parents do not interfere, how will children understand how to navigate these areas of life?

A friend of mine works with a family of three children where the second son is always bullying the first son. The parents expect them to settle their differences which they actually do with the first son giving in to the demands of his brother.

Their fights are usually settled and the parents are happy but what they don’t realise how they settle and the effect.

The home is the first society the child is exposed to. A great deal of how the child will respond to the outside word is learnt from home.

Instead of leaving your children to settle their differences, see it as an opportunity to teach what needs to be learnt.

By interfering, I do not mean jumping in, each time your children fight but👇🏻.

📌 Understand the root cause of the rivalry: The first time I wrote about sibling rivalry, I referred to the individual child’s temperament as the root cause. As a parent, understanding the temperament of your children will help you know what to expect.

For example, a melancholic child may often get into rivalry with other children because of his properness and sensitivity. The sanguine child may often step on siblings’ toes because of his impulsiveness. The choleric controlling behaviours may cause the sibling to rival etc.

📌Create an atmosphere that minimises rivalry. A friend came visiting one day and saw that my children each have a plate. She asked why I did not allow them share. In her words, “anyone can use any plate, it promotes bonding among them.”

Well, my thought is that soon, one particular plate will become every one’s favourite and rivalry would set in. What I do is to pay attention to reasons behind rivalry and find a way to prevent them from happening again.

I have visited friends and met their children fighting over TV channel to watch. Parents can prevent this by allowing each child chose one day of the week to decide which channel to watch.

Let them take turns at things, and if the item is new, hold on to it and have them come up with how they intend to take turns at it; who gets the first turn, what duration etc. same applies when they fight over an item. Take if from them and have them come up with how to share amicably.

📌Set boundaries: Even as siblings, one child’s rights stops where another child’s rights begins.

📌Create rules with the children: You know why they fight, so set firm rules. An effective way to help children behave properly is the rule system.

These rules, put every one’s strengths, weaknesses and boundaries into consideration. The rules should cover house chores, privileges etc.

📌When they fight, let the rule settle their differences: For example, if a rule says “Ask before you use your sibling’s item” and the cause of the fight is that one sibling did not ask, refer to the rule and ask the offending child to apologise.

📌Create a family value system: This comes in handy to settle rivalry. For example, if two siblings are fighting because one offended the other, ask the offender to apologise and refer the aggrieved child to your family values on forgiveness.

📌Create bonding activities and have siblings create memories together: Parents need to create an atmosphere for siblings to interact with, love, support and appreciate each other.

As a parent, you should be intentional about creating a healthy relationship between your kids.

Don’t always assume, they will outgrow or things will fall in place naturally.

This article is culled from a Facebook Group called The Intentional Parent

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