by Alison Astair
Sibling rivalry is complex and can last a lifetime. Children frequently feel that a parent may favor their sibling or just feel that their brother or sister is “better at everything.” Smarter, prettier, more popular….the list can go on and on!
Realize that each child has special qualities and that it is that uniqueness that makes them who they are. You can always point out different talents in your own friends and relatives and help your child see that that it’s wonderful to have different interests and different talents.
Here are some tips to try to bring more balance into your home and help each child feel special and appreciated for who they are.
- Make sure that each child gets some time alone with you several times a week.
- When spending time with one child, don’t talk about the other.
- Don’t withhold your affection or attention from one child because the other child gets upset. That upset is jealousy at first but the child quickly learns that their behavior (i.e. screaming, crying, etc.) works if the attention turns to them. The more you ignore the screamer they will quickly learn that their behavior does not work! You can just say that it’s his turn for a hug right now! After awhile, you will be able to hug freely and not say a thing!
- Don’t “lock” the children into their position in the family position (oldest, youngest, artistic, athletic, smartest, etc.) Allow each child the opportunity to experience some of the privileges and responsibilities of the other. Abilities aren’t mutually exclusive!
- Let each child know what it is about him that his siblings like or admire.
- Schedule family meetings. Allow each child to express their feelings (taking turns). For example, if one child says “I don’t like Billy. He’s mean to me. He hits me.” Don’t jump in and say something like, “He’s only playing.” or “He doesn’t mean it.” He loves you!” That’s just trying to patch it up. Go for the feelings. You can say something like, “You feel sad when he hurts you.” If you’re wrong, don’t worry, your child will quickly correct you! He may say, “I’m not sad, I’m mad!” Allow your child to express negative feelings. It’s better to get feelings out than keep them bottled up!
- Be as creative as your can with coming up with things that your children can do together. Encourage teamwork!
- Don’t compare them! Encourage uniqueness.
- Set clear boundaries and rules and stick to them! (NO physical or verbal abuse, respect each other’s privacy, etc.)
- Encourage sharing but don’t demand it. You can clarify between things that belong to both of them and things that are their own private property.
- If there is a new baby, try to keep some of the old routines you had with your older child (as much as possible, anyway!).
- Treat them fairly!!