Dealing with Sibling Rivalry

If you have more than one child, sibling rivalry can be enough to make you nuts! The naturally competitive spirit of sibs can be healthy at times but at other times it can get out of control.  It is important to take measures to help keep sibling rivalry at a healthy minimum for the benefit of everyone in the house.  Here are some useful tips to stop the rivalry from getting out of control and getting a little more peace and cooperation.

1.  Set aside time to spend with each sibling on a one-to-one basis.  Make the special time about that one child.  Let him choose the place that you go or the thing that you do.  Make the one-on-one time something that does require talking (no movies or TV for this).  The idea is to create a bond with the child while giving him the chance to feel like the center of your world - this can really boost his batteries and keep him from antagonizing a sibling just to get attention.

2.  Remind each child that he or she is an individual and gifts and talents are unique to each of us.  Focus on her talents and gifts and encourage her to follow those instead of the footsteps of older siblings (or even parents). When one child brags, it’s ok to acknowledge their strengths, but it’s best done in private.

3.  Spend non-competitive time as a family.  Playing games and sports together is great, but there should be some relaxed time as well.  Go hang out at the zoo or tour the botanical gardens.  Just have some fun that doesn’t require competition (but watch them; siblings have a way of creating competition when you aren’t looking). Encourage your kids to get involved in non - competitive play also. Puzzles and art projects are good for this.

4.  Avoid using statements that compare one sibling to another.  Instead of making a comment like “when your brother was your age” or “if you would just work hard like your sister does”, you should focus on the positives of the sibling you are talking with.  “You are doing so much better this year with your school work.”  “You are working so much harder to get your chores done and I can tell a big difference.”  Just keep siblings out of the comments altogether.

5.  Keep an open dialogue with all siblings.  You can better judge the temperature of the water and get a handle on any problems before they can get out of hand. If one child complains about the other, don’t try to edit his comments. Let him speak, and give feedback, mirroring what you heard him say. Kids will often become less emotional and dramatic when they are fully heard. Don’t be worried that you will feed into a problem or make it worse, because often when a child knows you understand his feelings, he’s much more equipped to behave well.

6. Praise and reward peacefulness. Sibling rivalry seems to be a natural element in any home with more than one child.  Although it may not be possible to eliminate the competitive spirit between siblings, it may be possible to reduce the sibling rivalry (particularly when it comes to the relationship with parents). One way to do this is with positive reinforcement, something described in detail in a book called the Kazdin Method (click link to read a review).

There are a ton more ideas on dealing with sibling rivalry at Nicole MacKenzie’s site More Fun Less Work Parenting.