Sibling Rivalry (page 2)
Siblings can be a wonderful addition to any child's life. When a good relationship is created between siblings, the rewards are extraordinary. Siblings can be there for each other in many ways that parents cannot. They can be playmates, share secrets, help each other learn important social skills, and be lifelong friends.
Even when siblings are best of friends, fighting and disagreements can happen. This is natural. In the process of growing up, children must learn how to build relationships. Parents play an important role in guiding their children to build these healthy relationships. The key lies in teaching children to express their anger safely and appropriately. It also has to do with encouraging cooperation between siblings rather than competition, and valuing each child's uniqueness.
Why Do Kids Fight?
Siblings fight about many things. Don't feel that you are a bad parent if your children fight. Instead, see their fights as learning opportunities for them. Knowing the "why" behind children's fighting will help you to better understand certain situations and perhaps even avoid some of their bickering. Siblings might fight over possessions, individual space, or just out of plain boredom. Following are other reasons siblings squabble.
- Basic Needs. Make sure your children's basic needs are being met. Children who are tired or hungry can get cranky and are much more likely to start fights.
- Attention. If children feel ignored, they may fight so that parents will notice them. It is hard for children to share their parents with their siblings. Children need to feel a sense of belonging in the family unit. If a desire for attention seems to be the cause for fights, parents need to make an extra effort to reward good behavior as well as to spend more individual time with each child.
- Lack Of Experience. Children lack social competence. For example, a child might pick a fight to get his sibling to play with him. Parents need to teach children to find more appropriate ways of voicing their needs. Parents can teach children to put their feelings into words and find safe ways to express their anger.
Encouraging Positive Relationships
Parents can play a major role in building and maintaining a healthy, happy, loving home life. Some ways to build positive relationships between siblings include:
Teach Supportive Communication
Helping children work out their differences involves listening to them and identifying their feelings. When a fight starts, children might feel many emotions like anger, frustration, loneliness, sadness, jealousy or disappointment. Begin by acknowledging your children's feelings toward each other e.g. "You both sound really angry at each other." Listen to each child's side without making judgements of who is right or wrong. Recognize the difficulty of the situation and express faith in their ability to work things out.
Focus on Each Child's Talents
Each child is a special and unique person. Children also need to know that the contributions they make to the family are valued. By focusing on the positive talents each child possesses, parents can build the child's confidence and this can lead to stronger family relationships.
Avoid Comparing Your Children
Children who are compared will often feel resentful and angry both toward you and their sibling.
Avoid using statements such as:
"Why can't you be more like______?" (sister or brother's name)
"He never makes those mistakes, why do you?"
"Let _______ help you, he does that so well."
"__________ never had these problems, why do you?"
Statements like these can make children feel unloved. They might also feel that they have failed you. Tell your child directly what you want or expect of her without comparing her to her brother. For example, "I want you to finish your chores before going out to play."
Use Positive Reinforcement
Parents are role models for their children. If parents want their children to be loving toward one another, then they must praise that behavior when it happens e.g. "You guys worked as a team, you picked up all the toys before the timer finished." When you praise positive interactions, the likelihood of the behavior reoccurring is greater.
Reprinted with the permission of the University of Florida. © 2008 University of Florida.
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