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6 Parenting Tips for Managing Sibling Rivalry

How Can Parents Cope with Sibling Rivalries?

Sibling rivalries can be stressful for the whole family. Here are six parenting tips to help you manage these contentious relationships between your kids.

Don't show favoritism. While you may love your children the same, there might be times when one child seems easier than the other. You may also see something of yourself in a specific child or find that you enjoy similar interests or activities. Despite this, it's important to not give any sort of preferential treatment. Try to remember that kids are very adept at spotting even the slightest signs of favoritism. Discipline yourself and try to remember that personality traits can be fleeting. Work hard to find common ground and give each child a fair share of time, recognition and attention.

Don't have unrealistic standards. When older children show signs of jealousy, it's common for parents to tell them to act like a big boy or girl. This can actually demean the child's feelings and make them resentful toward younger siblings. Remember that even though one child may be older, he or she is still a child. Instead of discounting feelings of jealousy or resentment; confirm their feelings with language, such as "I understand why you feel that way." After showing empathy, help give them perspective and show them how to work through their emotions.

Don't put one child in charge. It's generally best to avoid putting an older child in charge of your youngest. Don't ask your older child to babysit unless an emergency makes it necessary.

Don't make comparisons. Never, under any circumstances, compare your children's grades, physical appearance, behavior or even cleanliness. This can only create feelings of inadequacy, resentment and, of course, competition. This can also drive a wedge between siblings and negatively affect their relationships now and well into the future.

Think ahead. Certain circumstances increase the intensity of sibling rivalries. Be prepared for potential problems during birthdays, holidays or family get-togethers. Come up with rules and a plan to head off potential issues before they evolve into heated conflicts. Consider talking to aunts, uncles and grandparents beforehand and ask them not to show favoritism during interactions with your children.

Don't make children share toys. It may sound counterintuitive, but it's best to avoid making children share their toys. Your children should feel that they own their possessions. If they share them, it should be their choice. While it's good to encourage sharing, it shouldn't be required. If you want to purchase some "common" toys both children can play with, that's fine; however, you will likely breed anger and resentment if you force a child to sit and watch a sibling play with one of their most prized possessions.

Dealing with Rivalries

Sibling relationships provide early, on-the-job training for how to live and cooperate with other people. They also teach kids how to manage envy, jealousy, anger and other intense emotions. In children of all ages, the urge to compete for parental attention is completely natural. As children develop, they are working to define who they are as individuals. For better or worse, this often involves comparing themselves to others. Unfortunately, sometimes sibling rivalries can become so destructive, they can seriously disrupt a family. Family therapy can help restore harmony by giving parents and children effective tools to better manage their feelings and communicate more effectively.

Our caring therapists can help you and your family overcome life's greatest challenges. Contact us today!