9 Tips For Dealing With Sibling Rivalry 

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When you welcomed your new baby home, you thought adding another sibling would be a peach.  Your children would play together and entertain each other. So many laughs and giggles. Would they fight? Sure, a little, but you could mom up and manage it. Too bad sibling relationships aren’t always so peachy. Especially when they’re close in age. And in the early years when they’re learning the important life skill of problem-solving! 

But now that reality has hit you hard, you’re wondering how you can stop the fighting and help your kids respect each other, develop empathy, and get along?

Keep reading to learn 9 effective strategies to help manage sibling rivalry in your family. 

How to manage sibling rivalry 

1.Keep calm and breathe

You know the distinct sounds your children make when their emotions are ramping up, and they are about to clash. Instead of instantly reacting (like with anger or by swooping in to mediate), mindfully pauseIf you can, stop what you’re doing.Then focus your attention on calming your thoughts and leveling your breath. Breathing deeper helps your body go into a more relaxed state. When you’re calm, your kids are more likely to pick up those positive feelings. 

Furthermore, you can help them solve the problem in a more gentle, fair way when you take the time to simmer down yourself.

2. Don’t choose sides 

Regardless of what you thought you heard or saw, resist picking sides or blaming. Instead, stay neutral and listen to your children explain their perspectives. 

Choosing sides will encourage unhealthy competition between your children and teach them that you are not always a safe place to go when they have a problem. 

A harsh reality, yes, but it’s important to remember when managing sibling relationships. 

3. Listen to your children 

As a parent, it’s your job to be the judge and hear out what your children have to say – though do this without judgment. Give time for everybody to cool off. Then, when your kids are ready, gather them around to listen to their side of the story. This way, your other child has a chance to hear how they hurt their sibling, emotionally or physically. 

Encourage them to use “I” statements to express themselves:

  • I wanted the last granola bar, but he ate it.”
  • “I don’t like it when she screams in my ear.”
  • “I feel sad when she doesn’t play with me after she said she would.” 

By encouraging your children to talk about their feelings and what happened, you’re helping them learn how to be assertive with boundaries and practice active listening. 

Both are fundamental life skills to possess. 

4. Teach them to see their role in the situation 

Children are enormously self-centered (selfish) until around 6 years of age. 

It isn’t until elementary school do they start to understand that other people have feelings and experiences and that what they do can affect others around them. Aka empathy.  

One way to manage sibling rivalry is to teach them to be aware of their behavior. 

Did they instigate a fight by poking their sibling after they were asked to stop? 

Hide a toy as a prank? Just sitting on the couch minding their own business?

So again, help your child see their role in the situation. 

5. Roleplay and model 

People learn best by experience, so roleplaying how to handle a fight with your kids is a powerful way to teach them conflict resolution.

For example, say your child started hitting their sibling while playing video games because they wanted a longer turn. 

Gather them back around the video game chair as they were. Invite your kids to think of better solutions over hitting, and help them brainstorm if needed. 

Then act out your solutions and remind them if needed after they’ve cooled down from the next inevitable fight.  

6. Teach Them How To Let Off Steam 

Words are not the only tools you can teach children to help handle conflicts between their brothers and sisters. 

In addition, your kids can let out physical energy to release unwanted emotions. 

Teach and remind your child that they can walk away and:

  • Punch pillows
  • Go outside 
  • Breathe deep
  • Do yoga 
  • Swing their arms side to side (it’s silly and fun!)                                                                                                                                                                                          7. Change your behavior 

If you have a habit of comparing one child to another (“You’re better at drawing than your brother”) or labeling them (“Jayla is the sporty one in this family”), stop. 

Labeling and comparing your kids encourages competition and favoritism, increasing sibling rivalry.

A better way to approach your children’s strengths is to recognize and compliment their efforts – not the outcome and not against their siblings. 

8. Spend time with each child 

Spend 10-20 minutes of quality, distraction-free time with each child. Ask them what they would like to (reasonably) play and follow through. 

Sibling rivalry can brew from competing for parents’ attention, so try to schedule some one-on-one time at least each week. 

9. Play as a family 

Playing as a family provides terrific opportunities for your children to bond with each other and you. Board games, creating delicious desserts, and spending time outdoors are low-key activities that bring loads of fun. 

This is where core memories are made! 

 

So parents, how do you deal with sibling rivalry and get your kids to work together? 

 

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