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The Sibling Warzone: What To Do About Sibling Rivalry

Sibling rivalry

There’s nothing quite like sitting down to a nice family meal only to have your five-year-old and seven-year-old start an epic battle about who gets the crispiest piece of chicken. Or getting in the car to drive the kids to school only to have child # 1 fly into a screaming rage because she thinks it’s child # 2’s turn to have to sit in the middle.

Focus on the times they get along well.  If your kids are playing a board game and having fun, say something like, “Wow, I love how well you’re getting along with each other right now!”Sibling rivalry can be hard on everyone, but it’s a fact of life in most families. Experts generally agree that the root of sibling rivalry is jealousy; children just don’t want to share their parents’ attention. It is unrealistic to expect your kids not to compete for your affections, but here are a few suggestions to help you deal with the root of the rivalry:

  1. Avoid comparing them.  You might think you aren’t guilty of this, but sometimes comparisons can seem subtle and still cause damage. Try to avoid saying things like, “Ashley put her shoes on already, and you haven’t even found your socks yet!”
  2.  Love them uniquely instead of equally.  Parents often spend a lot of time trying to convince their kids that they love them exactly the same way. But it’s more effective to mention the things that make them unique and special to you.
  3. Time alone.  Even though it can be hard to carve out time to spend with each child separately, it’s crucial to give them the one-on-one attention they need from you. Even if it’s just a half-hour walk to the corner store to buy an ice-cream, it can make a world of difference to your child.

All this being said, no matter how much you follow these steps, your kids will still bicker and fight sometimes. So how to deal with it in the heat of the moment?

One: Back off

If the children are old enough to reason with, let them know that they can resolve the conflict themselves. Even kids as young as five or six might surprise you with their ability to work it out. This is particularly important for everyday bickering. If your kids just plain aren’t getting along, leave them alone. It can be annoying, but they need to learn that you won’t step in every time they have a minor disagreement.

Two: Intervene

If things are getting heated, intervene and ask them to come up with a plan. You can tell them you have confidence they will come up with something that works for both of them.

Three: Separate them.

If things are getting really out of control, it’s always a good idea to separate the kids. Sometimes I say, “If you can’t find a way to make this work without fighting, then you need to go to your own rooms and play by yourselves for a while.” This allows them time to cool off and gives everyone a break.

Not to worry. Helping your kids feel unique and special and giving them opportunities to work things out will have you well on your way to a quieter, more peaceful household!

Looking for more advice on sibling rivalry? Check out Kids: The Manual, which has a LOT more to say about the subject. (There’s also some great advice there on dealing with whining, disrespectful behavior, and tons of other common parenting challenges.) Click here to find out more!   

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Straight talk about sleep, parenting,
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My blog is a great place to find opinions, advice, the occasional rant, and some great videos about sleep.

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