Dealing with and preventing sibling rivalry

As much as parents hope that their children will get along, it is important for parents to be aware that sibling rivalry is an inevitable part of the sibling relationship.

“It is therefore imperative for parents to acknowledge that it is a common challenge and that it can’t always be prevented as much as it can be better managed and reduced in frequency,” said Stefania Romanini, a counselling psychologist.

From the onset, provide your children with clear messages as to how you expect them to treat one another. This assists in setting limits and making them aware of what is acceptable and not.

For example, “we don’t take someone else’s things without asking first” or when they begin to bicker, offer reminders about what you expect of them. For instance, “we don’t call each other names as by doing that you are putting your brother down” when one tries to belittle the other.

“Make sure your children are made aware that you will not stand for any violence between them. This assists in informing them of the boundaries,” added Romanini.

She said that what may prove to be helpful is teaching them about effective conflict resolution. Teach them how to take turns, to use “I feel” statements in order to effectively express how the situation or their sibling is making them feel and allow them the opportunity to walk away and count to ten, or take a few breaths to control their temper. These are strategies that they can then implement to prevent a conflict situation from arising or escalating.

“When the bickering does surface, try and stay out of it, as difficult as this may be, as it will allow them to work it out on their own, settle their differences, and to practice implementing effective conflict resolution strategies. Praise your children when they solve their arguments peacefully.

“However, if they do not reach a consensus or if the fighting escalates, you may need to step in and mediate,” she said.

Here, allow them to calm down and then take the time to listen to each child’s side of the story, again encouraging them to express how they are feeling.

Romanini added that without blame, losing your temper, or taking sides, explore possible solutions with them. If they have difficulty coming up with ideas, offer some suggestions to help them reach an effective resolution.

If they continue to disagree, it may be time for you to put them in the same boat and implement a consequence for their squabbling, such as “either you share the game or I am going to take it away”. Here it is important to follow through.

“What may also assist in better managing the rivalry between your children is to reflect back on how your parents handled rivalry between you and your siblings.

“This can help you to discard those approaches that you now see were not helpful and to be more intentional in using those approaches which you see were effective,”Romanini added.

  AUTHOR
Carmen Norton

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