Tips on how to handle Sibling Rivalry
Written by: Mai EL-Badawy
Mai’s Marvellous Kids Life Studio®
“I hate him!” you hear your older son talking about his younger brother in anger and frustration after ruining his toy or taking something from him. Siblings will be quiet and playing happily together for a minute, and the next will be screaming and saying mean things to each other.
If you’re pregnant with your second baby and you’ve made it clear to your first-born that you love them and that you’re there for them all the time, they will still act out and once the baby arrives, they will often get jealous anyway, even if they don’t show it in a direct way. Siblings are siblings, they will love each other but they will fight, scream, laugh, play and give each other a hard time about everything. As I read in a book “Siblings without Rivalry”, imagine your husband comes home one day with a new wife and tells you that you must love her, share your things with her, treat her nicely and accept her living with them. How would that feel? I’m sure it would feel crazy, unreasonable and heartbreaking. Imagine it feels the same for our kids when they get a new sibling.
So how can we help our kids have a good relationship together. Here are some points to help you deal with sibling fights and problems:
1. Never take sides: When they fight, we can’t get ourselves involved if we were not there and don’t know what really happened. It could be unfair to one of them. So instead put them in the same boat, and use the positive discipline method. Tell them “Can you please find a solution together?” or “Can you stay in separate rooms until you both feel better and then talk about a solution?”.
2. Get feelings acknowledged: When one of the kids is very angry towards the other, and when you ask what is wrong they say “I hate him, I don’t want to be his sister anymore!”. Never say “Why, don’t say that he’s your little brother. I’m sure you love him very much but you’re just a little upset.” That will make things worse. Instead tell them “Oh, you seem very angry. He must’ve done something that really got you mad. You hate him so much right now, is that right?” She will calm down and will talk more about how she feels.
3. Never Compare: Resist the urge to compare siblings. When you have for example two boys, one is organized and the other one leaves everything messy all the time. Don’t tell him “ Why don’t you organize your things like your brother?” that won’t do you any good. He will hate his brother for always being the good one, and he might think you love his brother more than you love him. It even puts pressure on the “good” one. He will always feel pressured to be as expected of you and will feel stressed to always be the good, one no matter what.
4. Being equal is not always a good thing: For example if you have a daughter and a son and your daughter comes to sit beside you on the couch and asks if you love her or not, or if you love her more. Most parents will respond with “ I love you both the same sweetheart.” Instead you could say “I love how caring you are, there’s no one like you in this whole wide world with your creative talents and your cute smile”.
5. No labelling: Sometimes parents talk about their kids ie that one of them is the polite and nice one, and the other is the trouble-maker. This makes them feel under pressure. And the parents reflect these feelings to their children without them knowing. Example, two girl siblings are playing together and the mother hears screaming. So she runs and looks at the “trouble-maker” as labelled by her and asks “what have you done to your sister?” without even knowing what has transpired. Other parents brag about one of their children and how smart they are and how this child makes them proud, and that their other child always has poor grades, is not so smart and is not doing so well at school. That has a terrible effect on the children.
6. Sometimes you should intervene: When they’re fighting, you can first acknowledge their anger and then allow them one at a time, to explain the situation at hand and who did what, in front of each other. Hear their points of views and tell them that you’re confident that they can come up with their own solution. If the fight was too aggressive, you can always separate them in different rooms until they cool off.
All the above points are based on research and one of the best books I ever read which is called “Siblings without Rivalry”.