The relationship a child has with a sibling is an important and lifelong connection. Sibling rivalry is a common parenting concern that can create stress and chaos in a family culture without proper intervention. Occasional arguments among children are normal, but parents should know how to keep it to a minimum with these simple strategies.
Set the Stage
Parents can do a lot to help their children get a long by setting the stage for close sibling relationships within the family structure. This can be done with the use of teaching moments that emphasize to both children that a brother or sister is a source of love, support, and friendship for their entire lives. A parenting strategy that emphasizes siblings being a child’s closest friends discourages sibling rivalry before it begins.
A common instigator for sibling rivalry is the habit parents have of openly comparing their children to one another. These comparisons can make a child resentful of not only the parents doing the comparing, but also the siblings. A competitive or comparative atmosphere means there is a winner and a loser. Sibling rivalry easily escalates when children feel the need to compete against each other for a parent’s approval or attention.
Another way parents can discourage sibling rivalry is by providing frequent opportunities for their children to work as a team. Chores that require the siblings to work together toward the final goal teach children valuable lessons such as reliance on their siblings for support and the importance of communication. Games and projects that emphasize teamwork can be just as effective with this strategy.
Rivalry and the occasional argument is still normal in sibling teamwork activities. However, in the structured environment of a game or chore project, these tense moments are easier to work through and use as teaching moments.
Parents can subdue sibling rivalry among their children by encouraging their kids to participate in the activities of brothers or sisters. While it isn’t necessary for a child to attend every sports game, dance recital or awards ceremony of siblings, frequent participation forms a foundation of support and love between children. When a child feels as though his or her siblings are a part of the activities that generate pride and excitement, that child will find it easier to view brothers and sisters as close friends.
Sibling rivalry does not always require parental intervention. Many disagreements between siblings can be worked out without a parent getting in the middle. Unless the children are acting out violently against one another, making them work it out on their own will strengthen the sibling relationship and instill important conflict resolution skills. Children will not always get along, but parents need to step back and let siblings learn how to deal with arguments in a healthy manner. It is also important to remember that not getting along with siblings as children does not mean that tense relationship will continue into adulthood.
The best way parents can stop sibling rivalry and encourage their kids to get along is by developing a family atmosphere of support and communication. Children should be reminded, as often as possible, that brothers and sisters are lifelong friends and not continual competitors.
Trudy is an expert in parenting advice and child psychology. She studies the ways kids interact amongst their peers and adults. She is an employee at The Growing Tree Academy.