Dealing with sibling rivalry

02/07/2015 by Aruna Kamath

My two daughters are two-and-a-half years apart. The elder is fifteen and younger on the cusp of teen at twelve-and-half. Like most siblings, they’re constantly at loggerheads – squabbling over things that are totally insignificant and trivial. Something as silly and minor as dinner plates getting exchanged or or who got to press the lift button first – can trigger an argument and lead to a mighty flare up.

If you have more than one child,  sibling rivalry is inevitable. Disagreements are bound to happen at every stage and I’ve realized that despite my best efforts there’s little I can do to keep my children from fighting. I’ve also realized that it’s a normal part of growing up and to a certain extent could be integral in bonding and building  relationships.

Whose fault is it?

Most parents blame it upon themselves and hold their own behaviour responsible for their kids’ actions. I have wondered sometimes, “Is it because they are not getting enough love and attention that they’re getting jealous of each other and ending up fighting”?

Psychololgists say that parents/ adults have no control over their kids’ emotions. Each child perceives a situation differently and reacts accordingly. So a parent can’t take the blame or credit for it.  However, what parents can do is, help children to manage their emotions during a squabble and intervene to minimize the impact.

Here a few ways to handle conflicts between your kids

Keep out of the kids’ arguments: You may have to step in and settle fights when the kids are small. But grown up children can sort out their squabbles on their own. As far as possible, ignore them and unless you think the fight has gone out of control, there’s no need to intervene.

Blame both the kids: Most often, when siblings fight, there’s always some mud-slinging  happening. While the fight could have been started by one child, both are equally responsible for the behavior. If you’re ever compelled to resolve a fight, remember to always remain neutral. Don’t ever take sides or point to one child and hold him responsible for the whole episode. The moment you single out one of them, you’re increasing sibling rivalry and doing bully-victim training. You’re teaching the child to be a bully by punishing him. The best way to diffuse the situation is to punish them both equally by confiscating their gadgets or reducing their free-time.

Don’t compare: Making comparisons will only kindle jealously among siblings. The child may interpret it as a criticism and develop a complex which may affect his self-confidence.

Never physically punish: Unless pushed to the edge, try not to enforce rigorous punishments on your children. Studies show that kids who are punished tend to show aggressive behavior and are likely to fight more and repeat misbehaviors.Instead, set a good example by using positive disciplining tactics like correcting them and guiding them through your words and actions.

Allow the older one to take care for the younger one: Small children love running errands and getting responsibilities. So assign simple tasks like fetching things for his baby sibling or helping in feeding or changing in diaper. This will instill a sense of belonging and strengthen bonding between siblings.

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