Humans are bound to disagree at one point or the other, and especially if they are living in shared spaces. No matter how alike you seem to be, there is always that one thing that sets you apart from the next person. That’s why sibling rivalry is so common. It is a result of issues such as comparison, jealousy, favouritism, and selfishness.
Sibling rivalry exhibits in both physical and emotional abuse. It could be name-calling, blaming, stealing, lying, challenging beliefs, constantly arguing, tattling, or hitting.
As a parent, you most definitely want to see your children living together in harmony. Conflict within the home causes unnecessary tension, and that’s why the resolution of the conflict is vital. What you need to understand as a parent is that sibling rivalry is normal. In fact, it can have some benefits if the conflict is resolved well. Sibling rivalry can boost mental and emotional development, increase maturity, and enhance social skills. On the other hand, sibling rivalry can have adverse effects. The siblings may breed hatred for each other and never stop fighting. It could lead to them becoming emotionally or physically wounded. They could even grow up to become bullies or start to lack empathy.
Here are a few ways of dealing with sibling rivalry.
- Treat your children as individuals. Do not compare them.
In many homes, people are compared left right and centre. I have seen this happen especially among twins or siblings who are around the same age group.
X works harder than Y and is more responsible.
I wish X would be like Y.
Why can’t you just act like your brother?
While you may think that comparing your children to one another will push them to do better, they end up growing resentment towards each other. Children who are made to feel inferior to a sibling will fight to take back that power. Your children will never live peacefully among each other if you are comparing them to one another. What you need to do is correct your child without necessarily comparing them to their counterparts. In line with this, avoid any form of favouritism and treat them equally.
- Enforcing rules
There is no doubt that children need to be directed and guided as they grow up. When it comes to sibling rivalry, enforcing rules is a way to make sure that there aren’t instances of fighting, because well, the rules are set.
Rules can set a tone and communicate your expectations about how you want your children to relate to each other. You can refer back to the “family rule” when children fight or do not treat each other with respect. Include them in discussions about what rules should exist in your family in terms of how people should treat each other.
Some examples of rules you should enforce are – no hitting one another or no shouting at one another. They should be based on family values like love, respect, and sharing.
- Conflict resolution
One of the trauma responses that a lot of people carry into their adulthood is poor conflict resolution strategy. Communicating your problems with your counterparts is difficult, but it is something that can be learnt. For example, a lot of us respond to being hurt through unhealthy practices like silent treatment or ‘ghosting.’ This is immaturity.
As a parent, you must strive to ensure that your children can easily communicate their problems and solve them healthily by articulating their problems, accepting their wrongdoings, apologizing to their siblings when they are wrong, and forgiving one another.
Each child should express their point of view and listen to the other child’s point of view. They should generate a number of possible solutions that work for each of them, choose one solution, and try it.
- Family meetings
How many of us actually grew up actively having family meetings? I can’t speak for you, but in my home, I can actually count the number of times that we did. Rather than being a reason for parents to instil rules and discipline, these meetings should hold everyone accountable for what they did or did not do. They can serve as space for the family members to actively listen and learn from one another.
The skills children learn in family meetings, such as compromise, cooperation, and openness to other people’s ideas, will help them to communicate effectively and therefore reduce sibling rivalry in the home.
- Take it away
If you want to deal with conflict among siblings, you might want to take whatever is making them fight. Nothing should come between your children’s relationship, and if it is physical, you might have no other option but to take it away. You can first warn them and then take it.