Welcome to the world of sibling rivalry.
Sibling rivalry is the jealousy, physical and verbal fighting, and competition among brothers and sisters. Research from Cambridge university suggests that sibling rivalry is actually healthy, and leads to the healthy social development of children.
However, there are situations when sibling rivalry spins out of control, and as adults, siblings may not be in the best of terms with each other.
It is every parent’s nightmare scenario when brothers and sisters are constantly fighting, verbally and physically. Is there something you can do, to at least lessen the intensity of the competition and the fights among your children?
Do not show any signs of favouritism
Parents are human, and at times one child is definitely easier to handle than another. However, the number one rule about handling sibling rivalry is to avoid showing any kind of favouritism to any of your children.
Give private time for each child
Every day, no matter how exhausted you are, find some time to be alone with each of your children. This is especially important as they grow in to teenage years.
Do not, ever, compare your children
Each child is unique. Parents should never compare their children, their looks, grades, behaviour or their abilities. You should never tell a child that you love him or her more than the other because he or she is behaving better.
Do not tell one child to be a role model for the other children
Asking one child to do things perfectly so that he/she will be a role model for the others is simply putting too much pressure on that child. He/she might even come to hate siblings because of that pressure.
There should be some limits beyond which children are not allowed to go. Bullying, name calling, saying bad words to each other, using someone’s things without asking permission etc. are behaviours that should not be allowed at any cost.
Give everyone time and opportunity to talk
When everyone is together, do not allow one child to be the star and monopolize the conversation. Even the most silent kid will have something to say. Encourage each of your children to talk, even though they may be naturally shy. When one child talks, everyone else has to listen. Interruptions should not be allowed unless very urgent.
Manage your own stress better
Research shows that children with parents who are not able to cope well with their day-to-day activities or with each other, have a more difficult time living with each other. Are you a parent who gets easily anxious and impatient? Deal with your own stress and look after your own needs. If your entire day is spent on solving kids’ problems you cannot be an effective parent or problem solver. Find time for yourself.
Do not blame one kid for the problems of another
It is human tendency to put the blame somewhere. Imagine that your elder child cannot concentrate on his/her studies because the younger one is too noisy. It is counterproductive to accuse the younger one of being too boisterous and disturbing the elder one. Get some quiet space and time for the elder one, without blaming the younger one.
Do not put unrealistic demands on older children
Parents tend to expect too much from older children. Often, even a young child is expected to do chores and things for the younger one even if he/she is just a toddler. Remember that just because a child is the oldest, he/she need not be a mature and responsible child. Allow children to be their age – younger or older.
Do not put hungry and tired kids together
In situations where children are likely to be tired or hungry, do not expect them to be very nice to each other. Keep them separate till they are well-fed and back to their normal energy level.
Give some personal space to each of the kids
Even small children need their space. Kids should not have to share everything. As children grow older, they need more of alone time and time with their own thoughts and dreams. Parents will have to respect that. If they share a room, paint a line down the middle of the floor, and set the cupboards or other furniture up to define two separate spaces.
Expect children to be different from each other
It often happens that if you have two children, each is entirely different from the other. They might like different food, play with different toys, and have different hobbies. This is entirely normal. Parents should expect it, and make allowances for that.
Be fair at all times
Fairness in all dealings should be the mantra at home. Parents should be fair to each other, in their interactions with people both inside and outside their family, and in their treatment of their children. They should be fair to such an extent that children should come to expect fairness as the norm. In such a scenario, they themselves will act fairly to each other, or at least recognize that there is something wrong when they act unfairly.
Sibling rivalry is a fact of life that a parent will have to live with. It is every parent’s challenge to harness the energy that goes into sibling rivalry in healthy ways, so that brothers and sisters grow up into healthy, sociable individuals.