All relationships have moments of tension, disagreement, and problem solving. The family unit is the first place a child can learn conflict resolution, especially regarding sibling rivalry. One or more of the following parenting tips can help increase bonding between siblings and bring peace to your home.
1. Spend quality time with your child. Give each of your children special attention whenever possible. Often, sibling rivalry is a struggle to get noticed. Spending individual time with your children doing things they enjoy will let them know how special they are to you. Share their favorite activities and show equal enthusiasm in their interests, whether for theater performances or sporting events. This will also allow your children to have your undivided attention, if only for a little while.
2. Limit giving parental responsibilities. Older children can participate in caring for younger siblings; this will encourage your children to feel involved and contribute to the family. However, it’s important not to “overuse” your older child by giving them responsibilities that should be left to parents, as it can cause resentment rather than build a bond.
3. Recognize individuality. Avoid comparing your children to each other and recognize them as individuals. Everyone has personal strengths and talents, which should be valued and encouraged. Individuality is embraced and appreciated through this approach.
4. Teach conflict resolution skills. Growing up with siblings provides a valuable training ground for learning many life skills. Teach your kids to compromise, treat each other with respect, and take turns.
5. Encourage your kids to work it out without interference. You know your children won’t always agree, so you might spend all of your time intervening if you don’t let them handle things independently. It may be necessary to help set the tone and create boundaries but allow your children to talk things through to settle disputes as much as possible without you refereeing. Give them the chance to make their own decisions, but offer suggestions if they get stuck. The best way to learn is by developing solutions.
6. Be a good role model. Provide your children with a peaceful environment. A calm and anger-free parent is more likely to inspire the same in their children. Participate in activities to lower stress with the entire family, such as taking a long walk or listening to music.
7. Discipline privately. Take your children aside if they need discipline or correction, and never do so in front of the other sibling. This avoids one-upmanship-like behavior, which escalates negativity. Let your kids know that making fun of a sibling who gets punished won’t be tolerated.
8. Provide space. Each sibling needs to have their own space. If it’s not possible to have separate rooms, organize their room so that each child has ownership of their belongings. Establish rules that teach respect for each others’ possessions and space, such as “ask-don’t-take” and “clean up after ourselves.”
9. Hold family meetings. Family meetings allow children to voice differences or complaints and make it easier for everyone to work together as a team. Kids who have the opportunity to provide input feel validated, valued, and more invested in family activities and routines. Family meetings also allow parents to restate family rules, add new ones, or discuss treating one another with respect.
10. Encourage positive interactions. Give your children opportunities to talk about what they like about each other and discuss the positive aspects of having one or more siblings. As they build many cherished memories together and share experiences, they can support each other through rough patches.
It’s natural for kids to clash and compete for their parent’s attention. Knowing how to defuse sibling rivalry will help bring more harmony into your home and teach your kids how to resolve conflicts constructively, and teach valuable life skills.