How To Help Your Child Deal With Sibling Rivalry
Sibling rivalry is very common and a normal part of childhood. Most siblings will grow out of their sister or brother jealousy and become the best of friends, but this doesn’t make it any less testing for mum and dad in the meantime!
While you’re unlikely to be able to put a stop to sibling rivalry completely, there are ways that you can help smooth over disagreements and encourage a happy, harmonious house (most of the time!). Here are 5 tips on how to help siblings get along:
1. PREPARE FOR A NEW BABY
Ensure you set aside plenty of quality time for the older child when the new baby arrives.
Sibling rivalry can start very early, with an older sibling feeling jealous of a new baby. This is perfectly normal – the older child is used to being at the centre of your world or the ‘baby’ of the family, and now they have to share your attention with a very demanding younger sister or brother! Get your child used to the idea of a new baby gradually, try to involve them as much as possible and ensure you set aside plenty of quality time for the older child when the baby has arrived.
2. CONSIDER YOUR CHILD’S AGE
Toddlers find it difficult to grasp the concept of sharing, so set your expectations in line with your child’s age.
It’s important to consider the age of your children, when setting the boundaries of how they interact with each other. For example, expecting a toddler to share his toys with a new baby sibling is likely to cause upset, confusion and even resentment. For an older pre-schooler however, learning to share with siblings can be a great life lesson and preparation for school, and could even encourage the siblings to play together.
3. TRY NOT TO GET INVOLVED
Learning to resolve their own squabbles is an important skill for children.
Where possible, try to let your children resolve their own petty squabbles – this is a great life skill for them to have! It also avoids the issue of any perceived favouritism, for example, if you tend to protect the younger child and tell the older child that they should ‘know better’. Of course, you’ll need to intervene if the squabble escalates and becomes physical, but try not to focus on who is to blame.
4. PRAISE, DON’T PUNISH
Positive reinforcement can be more effective than punishment.
It’s difficult to know how to stop siblings from fighting in a positive way, but praise goes a long way with children, so make an extra effort to notice any examples of them playing nicely together, sharing, being kind or even just tolerating each other in a calm way! Punishment can cause resentment, which could escalate any issues further. If you do need to step in to separate your children, do so calmly and with minimal fuss.
5. TEACH BY EXAMPLE
Show your child how to share and play nicely.
Children learn by example, so make a big show of sharing your own things with them and others. Offer to share your favourite chocolates or bubble bath, for example. You can also play simple turn-taking games with a toddler, progressing to board games with older children. All of this will get them used to the idea of taking turns, sharing, following rules and playing nicely with family members.
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