The ugly side of some sibling relationships is sibling rivalry. It seems like some kids go out of their way to fight, tease, or compete with their older and younger siblings. There are lots of reasons why siblings don’t get along, from competing for their parents’ attention to trying to assert their own independence. The good news is that there are ways to alleviate the headaches that come with the fights among siblings that are potentially longer lasting than pain relievers.
Playing favorites is something that many parents do, some consciously and others not so much. Playing favorites can build resentments and make sibling relationship problems even worse. While it’s natural for you to be more in tune with one kid’s personality, try not to let this cloud your ability to fairly settle disputes. Also, try not to compare siblings to each other as this could come across as liking one child more than another.
Sometimes kids are jealous because a newborn is getting all of the attention. One way to possibly prevent this jealousy is to let your children get excited about the arrival of a new baby. Let your kids bond with the baby while it’s still in the womb by talking and reading to the baby. Prepare your kids for how they can help out when the baby arrives. Let them know that their participation in taking care of the baby is very important — and makes you very proud.
If you have a toddler at home, her conflict resolution might mean slapping her sibling in the face, which of course, will only anger your older child and cause a huge fuss. Try to teach your children to resolve conflicts in a non-physical way — and to create win/win solutions. For example, if your kids often argue over television control, encourage them to make up their own rules like the oldest chooses a TV show first one and the youngest the next — or whoever chooses first on Thursday goes last on Friday.
Family meetings are a great way to allow your children to work out grievances — and let you know exactly what’s going on. With younger children, try using this time to also involve them in activities that teach things like fairness, cooperation, kindness and sharing. Before the meeting, you might ask your kids to create a collage that includes images of children sharing, and then let them talk about their sharing experiences with each other. Make this a family-bonding experience — as well as a time to work through differences.