Many couples decide to have a second child so that their little one won’t grow up as an only child. Having an extra child around the house creates an additional level of stress for parents, and it can become especially problematic if the kids start to butt heads at every turn. Sibling rivalry is incredibly common, yet many parents seem to be at a loss in figuring out a way to combat it. Sibling rivalry has to be nipped in the bud as quickly as possible, as the behavior of all the children involved can quickly spiral out of control if left to fester. Here are a few things that you can do as a parent with feuding children:
- Hold both children responsible – Even if you know that one of your children is generally the instigator in arguments, you have to hold both of them responsible for their own parts in the fight. The fact of the matter is that the other child is reacting to the teasing or bullying in the wrong way when they keep the fight going, and the only way to nip it in the bud is to let them know that you hold them both responsible for their parts.
- Teach your kids when and how to stand up for themselves – Teaching your kids how to set appropriate boundaries and how to fight fair will help them later in life in terms of dealing with bosses, unfair coworkers and most importantly, it can help them in relationships. Teaching your kids to say “I don’t like that”, “please stop” and teaching them to walk away or find space away from their sibling can be a start. You can also talk to them privately when they aren’t in the middle of the fight about what you liked and didn’t like about their behavior towards their sibling.
- Nip jealousy in the bud – Sibling rivalry is often born out of one child being jealous of the accomplishments of the other. If you see that one child is displaying that sort of behavior, use that time to make them aware of how good they are in something they excel at. For example, if one child is better at sports while the other is more academically gifted, find a way to let them know that their accomplishments may be different, but that they are equal in your eyes.
- Set up a rivalry space – (Note that this step WILL NOT WORK if one of your children is much older or there is a safety concern.) Once your kids have done their homework and are ready for some free time, make them sit together and let them know that it is okay for them to bicker for a set period of time. They will love the opportunity to squabble, but will soon find out that their arguments are actually getting in the way of that free time. Make them sit in that space for the allotted time, and let them know that they will have to do that every day until they figure out how to stop constantly fighting. This is often a very effective way to put an end to sibling rivalry.