5 Ways to Handle Sibling Rivalry

Sibling rivalry is inevitable whether you have 2 kids or 8 kids like Mighty Mommy. That's why it's crucial to implement these 5 tips in your home, to encourage more kindness and less competition.

Cheryl Butler,
February 9, 2014
Episode #267

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One minute your kids are playing happily together—sharing their toys, laughing about how silly their stuffed animals look wearing wigs and sunglasses—and then suddenly, they’re at each other’s throats, fighting and name calling for no real reason except to outdo one another.

Sibling rivalry is inevitable whether you have 2 kids or 8 kids like Mighty Mommy. That's why today I’m going to discuss 5 ways in which you can encourage more kindness and less competition in your home.

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It’s important to understand that sibling rivalry is quite normal.  It’s not unusual to see problems start soon after the birth of a new child.  Though it’s frustrating and stressful to watch your kids treat each other poorly, there are steps you can take to keep the peace in your home while helping your kids form a loving sibling relationship:

Tip #1:  Insist on Respect

Insulting and hurtful words are powerful and damaging. In fact, experts conclude that every negative comment needs at least 5 positive remarks to even out. That's because bad emotions and bad feedback have more impact than good ones.  So it is extremely important to teach our kids to respect one another. 

When parents show respect, kids are more likely to follow. Pay close attention to how you treat family members, your spouse, your friends, and those outside the family. Be friendly and polite to teachers, neighbors, grocery clerks, and anyone else you connect with throughout the week. Offer a kind word to the bus boy who just cleared the mess that your kids made while dining out. 

Your kids are watching and learning from you all the time, so be respectful to others regardless of the situation.  For example, if someone tries to pass you on the highway for driving to slow, instead of screaming obscenities at the car, stay calm and casually remark, “That lady must be in a rush to someplace very important.” By witnessing how you handle contentious situations, you’re helping to lay the groundwork for your kids to be respectful to one another.

Tip #2:  Don’t Get Involved

When your children are old enough to understand directions, try to see if they can work out their own conflicts before you step in and intervene.  This strategy can be difficult to pull off because as parents we want to help our kids solve their problems whenever possible, and younger children will need guidance when problem-solving. 

For instance, you can guide your younger child in how to take turns playing with the same toy by physically demonstrating how to share the drums and saying something like “Now it’s Mommy’s turn to play the drums, can I please have them?”  Then you can model your turn ending and handing him back the set of drums, “Here you go, Michael, now it’s your turn to play.”  

When I see trouble brewing between any of my kids, I try and wait it out, unless of course one of them decides he’d like to physically hurt the other.  Otherwise, I quietly observe and if the squabbling continues, I give them gentle reminders and advance warnings. A perfect example is counting to three. My kids know that one of our rules is that if I reach three and the problem hasn’t been solved, I will intervene and they’ll then deal with my consequences.

If I’ve noticed why they are fighting, I also help them remember to state their feelings to each other rather than simply yell or grapple. “Annie, I don’t like the nasty things you are saying about my friend.”  It's best to help them solve the problem themselves. You can offer suggestions, but let them decide what the best options are.


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