Listening to the constant bickering and fighting of your children can be as pleasant as fingers on a chalkboard. If the never ending squabbling and crabbing have you at your wit’s end, taking some time to understand where these disagreements are coming from can help you to curb some of the behavior.
Three factors that contribute to sibling rivalry
- Jealousy. Most sibling rivalry stems from perceived favoritism of some sort. Whether it is real or imagined, children will think that one parent gives their sibling more attention, more treats, or fewer consequences. As children compete for the attention and favor of their parents, they will often behave poorly towards their siblings.
- Age Proximity. Children that are very close in age may find more reasons to fight as their interests will be more similar than children with a greater age gap. Although if children are very far apart in years, older children may resent the amount of time that is required to care for a baby or small toddler and act out. Middle children tend to perceive the most inequality as they do not receive the special privileges of the older children and the extra attention of the younger ones.
- Special Needs. If one of your children has special needs due to a disability or illness, this can cause some kids to act out in order to get extra attention. Kids can become jealous of special equipment, extra visitors, and additional time spent with children with special needs if they don’t understand the condition, or are afraid of what is happening.
Three ways to counteract sibling rivalry
- Understand the unique needs of each child. Don’t try to treat your kids equally, instead focus on what each child’s individual needs are. For example, don’t sign up all of your kids for a sport in order to be fair. Instead ask for each child’s input in choosing an activity that suits them personally.
- Anticipate Problems. If your kids have difficulty cooperating, encourage activities that require more independence. Games like hide-and-seek, or working on art projects together requires less cooperation while still spending time together. Don’t leave kids in charge of choosing which TV programs to watch, make the decisions for them or devise a schedule for sharing.
- Don’t get involved. Taking sides or trying to work out arguments between your children will usually only make sibling rivalry worse. Set some ground rules as far as respectful language and acceptable behavior, and let your children settle their own disagreements. You may need to help younger children by guiding them in the right direction, but try not to take sides or force resolutions. According to an article in the Huffington Post, children can gain many important skills if they are allowed to work out their differences including problem solving, self control, listening, and empathy for others.
Sibling rivalry is something that all parents with more than one child will encounter. No matter how much you plan or how hard you work on encouraging cooperation, your kids will find inequality somewhere and find a way to fight about it – even after they’ve grown up. Focus on encouraging good behavior, and spending time with your kids as a group and as individuals. Make sure that they feel loved and secure, and over time your home will become more peaceful.
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