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How to Deal with Sibling Rivalry in Your Children

5 Ways Parents Can Minimize Sibling Rivalries

If you have multiple children, sibling rivalry will become an inevitable part of your family dynamic. While it may seem impossible to regulate these conflicts, there are some things you can do to encourage your kids to work together and get along. While you can't stop sibling rivalries entirely, these tips can help you reduce the severity and frequency of problematic conflicts.

Drop the labels. We live in a world where people are often categorized with labels referencing their intelligence, talent, athleticism, success and popularity. When it comes to children, intentional and unintentional labeling can really ramp up competition between siblings. It may seem harmless to call one of your children artistic, athletic, easy-going or "the good eater." Unfortunately,  this can make their siblings feel as if they are none of these things. When you ditch the labels, you give the straight-B student a chance to feel good about their grades and the non-athletic child an opportunity to feel less self-conscious.

Provide attention. In lieu of consistent positive attention, children will often seek negative attention just to get noticed. You can better satisfy your child's natural need for attention by providing a minimum of 10 to 15 minutes of intentional, kid-centered attention every day. Depending on the child's age, this can be Lego building, a tea party, drawing or dancing. Whatever the case, be sure to be fully present during this important time and leave your phone out of the equation. When you provide each child with the time they deserve, they will be less likely to compete for your attention.

Teach peaceful play. When kids begin fighting, most parents try to diffuse the conflict by declaring a time-out. While this might give children a chance to cool down, it won't teach them how to resolve inevitable conflicts. You can teach children conflict resolution skills by role-playing once emotions have calmed down. Teach them how to make requests, how to politely say “no” and express their feelings. Give them the right words to use ("May I please have a turn?") and ways to respond ("I'm not quite finished, but you can have a turn when I'm done."). You should also teach them language to use when they feel mad or frustrated ("I feel angry when Courtney doesn't share her toys" or “I feel hurt when Chris hits me.") By giving your kids the tools to resolve conflicts on their own, you will notice a decrease in arguments.

Don't take sides. When possible, you should do your best to stay out of disagreements. By ignoring a conflict between siblings, you can give them a chance to work things out on their own without rewarding negative behavior with your attention. While it may be difficult, try to ignore the conflict unless an older child is being especially cruel to a younger sibling.

Encourage teamwork. When fights escalate or siblings are unable to regulate their feelings and reach an agreement, you may have to step in. Be careful not to take sides. Instead, calm the situation and allow each child to explain their side of the story using "I feel" statements. If, after listening to both sides and trying to find a solution, the children still cannot agree, consider putting both parties in the same boat by giving the same consequence or outcome. For example. you might say "If you can't take turns, I will have to put the game away for the day." Siblings tend to come together when they realize it's in both of their best interests to compromise on a solution. Just be sure to follow through on your threat to build credibility for future warnings.

The caring therapists at Foundations Counseling can help you and your family overcome life's greatest challenges. Contact us today!