Sibling rivalry is a natural part of family life. It is bound to occur. It is not always unhealthy, because it provides a child’s first introduction to the conflicts of friendship. To be a successful in forming friendships, your child needs to know how to share, communicate, work with others, and tolerate frustration. The best way to learn these skills is to practice them with siblings.
However, sibling rivalry becomes undesirable when your peaceful home environment is shattered with shouting, pushing, pulling, and aggression. There are ways to keep the jealousy and competition that can trigger sibling rivalry from getting out of hand and renewing your home’s tranquility. Taking a few logical and simply steps will not only stop much of the sibling rivalry, but actually can prevent it from occurring.
Have family routines and stick to them.
When your child is hungry, bored, or tired, every little thing starts to become a bother, just as it does with adults. To make sure your child does not reach this point, you need to have a schedule for playing, resting, and eating.
Your daily routine does not need to be carved in stone, but try to substitute like activities. For example, play time can either be outside or inside; alone or with friends or a sibling; at home or at a park; or even at a play area at a fast food restaurant before lunch.
It makes sense to have rest time in the afternoon when your child begins to get tired from the day’s activities. Rest time should not be too late in the day, or your child might have problems falling asleep at night.
Don’t just include meals in your child’s daily routine. A morning and afternoon (after-nap) snack can help avoid mood problems derived from hunger. Make sure snacks and meals are healthy, high-energy foods that contribute to mental and emotional health along with your children’s physical well-being.
Eliminate situations and activities which model aggression.
If you pay close attention to what television shows convey, you may be surprised how much aggressive behavior is shown, even on “children’s programming” – cartoons, family situation comedies, and made for T.V. movies. Also, many video games have violent content. Our children model what they see. Consider eliminating or finding alternatives for some of the more aggressive programs your children are watching and video games they may be playing.
Also, make sure you do not model aggressive or angry behavior in dealing with situations. If you do lose your cool, apologize and explain to your child you should not have done so. Such a situation can be an excellent way of creating, “What should I have done instead?” scenarios which can help both you and your child avoid future aggressive behavior.
Use time out.
One of the most effective methods of dealing with sibling rivalry is the use of time out. Removing a child from the situation is the quickest way to defuse a potentially explosive situation. This does not mean you need to use time out as a punishment. Simply tell the children involved they need to play separately for a while and can go back to playing together after a short break. Usually, when the time out is over and the children resume playing, the conflict is no longer an issue.
Teach acceptable ways to deal with emotions.
Anger is normal. It is what we need to do when we are angry that a child needs to learn. If your children get angry at each other, discuss the situation and how to deal with it.
We mentioned earlier the importance of a, “What could I have done instead?” conversation. There are many other ways to help your child express emotions in a positive way. If you see someone behaving unacceptably in public, use that occurrence as a way to introduce a conversation about what is acceptable public display of emotion. Talk about when we experience different types of emotion and how to deal with those emotions whenever a situation presents itself. Just be prepared for your child to display their awareness in sometimes unique ways. My five year old granddaughter is not shy when it comes to telling other playmates, “We don’t do that at my house,” when she observes unacceptable behavior.
Spend individual quality time with your child.
Sibling rivalry is often triggered by jealousy and competition. We want our children to develop individual personalities with the ability to make choices about the talents and skills they wish to develop. Taking time alone with your child is an excellent way to boost their self-confidence, help them define who they are, and avoid competition with siblings and others. Lack of self-confidence and a competitive attitude can lead to sibling rivalry. Spending alone-time with each child is a good way to avoid potential problems.
For your alone time, choose places, times, and activities specific for each child. Talk about their interest or participate in an activity with them. One of my granddaughters wanted to sew like Mum. Although teaching her at home was an option, her little sister constantly interrupted. A possible solution would be inexpensive beginner sewing lessons at a local fabric store one day a week, followed by lunch. My daughter’s youngest child loves animals. A picnic lunch one day a week at a local park to feed the fish and the ducks in the lake could become a special weekly ritual for her.
Sometimes a little cuddle time with a good book and Mum is all your children need to get back on track. Also, spending family time together helps children feel a sense of security and family belonging that can make sibling rivalry a rare occurrence in your household. Adding family activities to your daily routine can foster family bonding which, in turn, can lead to less sibling rivalry and more tranquility in your home.