We have all read about sibling rivalry and fairy tales like Cinderella but what happens when you experience such a tiff in your house. Sibling rivalry happens when kids feel envy, jealousy or resentment, and can lead to arguments, fights, and competition for attention and power. So when are brothers and sisters having a normal spat and when it is a real problem, how can parents tell that and what must they do to keep peace.
It is a concern for almost all parents of two or more kids. Problems often start right after the birth of the second child. Sibling rivalry usually continues throughout childhood and can be very frustrating and stressful to parents.
While it may be common for brothers and sisters to fight, it’s certainly not pleasant for anyone in the house. And a family can only tolerate a certain amount of conflict. So what should you do when the fighting starts?
- Sibling rivalry starts even before the second child is born, and continues as the kids grow and compete for everything from toys to attention. It is important to give responsibilities to the older one and small tasks like helping while changing the younger one’s clothes and nappies, to feed the milk. Make sure you watch over!
- Don’t get involved. Step in only if there’s a danger of physical harm. If you always intervene, the kids may start expecting your help and wait for you to come to the rescue rather than learning to work out the problems on their own
- If you’re concerned by the language used or name-calling, it’s appropriate to “coach” kids through what they’re feeling by using appropriate words. This is different from intervening or stepping in and separating the kids. If you do step in, try to resolve problems with your kids, not for them
- Sometimes it’s best just to give them space for a little while and not immediately rehash the conflict. Otherwise, the fight can escalate again. If you want to make this a learning experience, wait until the emotions have died down
- Next, try to set up a “win-win” situation so that each child gains something. When they both want the same toy, perhaps there’s a game they could play together instead
- Set ground rules for acceptable behaviour. Tell the kids to keep their hands to themselves and that there’s no cursing, no name-calling, no yelling, no door slamming. Solicit their input on the rules — as well as the consequences when they break them
- Don’t put too much focus on figuring out which child is to blame. It takes two to fight — anyone who is involved is partly responsible
Remember, as kids cope with disputes, they also learn important skills that will serve them for life — like how to value another person’s perspective, how to compromise and negotiate, and how to control aggressive impulses.