For those who have siblings and therefore are a sibling, you know it’s not always rainbows and unicorns. One minute you love each other and the next, you wish each other did not exist.
We sometimes forget that even though we are related and were brought up in the same household, we are individuals that have different personalities. These dissimilarities can lead to plenty of arguments, competition, physical fights and jealousy.
As a parent, no one wants to see his or her own kids not getting along.
Some days, it can seriously drive a parent mad, especially this one. My three boys all get along for the most part but when they don’t, they really don’t. Hitting, wrestling, stealing each other’s belongings, harsh words…you know the drill.
So how do we manage the drama sibling rivalry creates in our household?
- Hide in your closet and lock the door. Just kidding (sort of). There are definitely times when you feel like giving up and escaping. Guess what? That is okay and totally normal. In fact, giving yourself a time out allows you to calm your frustrations and think more clearly about what your next steps will be to end the commotion.
- Calm everyone down. You can investigate the “what” and “why” in a bit. If your kids have been fighting, separate and help them to compose themselves. Once the air is more peaceful, then uncover the details.
- Respect, respect, respect. It is not just about children respecting parents, but their siblings, friends and of course themselves. Deliver the message that at the end of the day you are family and all love each other, even though at the moment you feel anything but love for your siblings. When we have respect, we get respect.
- Put yourself in your children’s shoes. When you are on their level, either literally, by bending down to achieve equal height or figuratively, by understanding what they are dealing with from their perspective, it is easier connect with them. Your kids will appreciate you understanding their point of view and it will allow you to parent in the most effective way.
- Teach your kids how to be their own peacemakers. As every parent knows, constantly breaking up arguments gets really old, really fast. When kids learn to figure out solutions on their own, it will benefit them in the future, regarding friendships, future co-workers and relationships. Suggest ways for your children to achieve the goal of making peace with their sibling. Perhaps a deep breath, taking a brief time out and then talking about the situation could be extremely helpful in getting them to that level. You know your child best and what would be effective. Create a list of family mantras to hang on your fridge and work together to build this list. Check in often to ensure everyone remembers what these mantras are.
- Emphasize the role of being a leader. Every child should be aware that he or she is a role model for a sibling, whether older or younger. A brother or sister is watching and emulating every move and every word. If there are additional siblings, especially younger ones who are not involved in the rivalry, it is even more imperative to understand how negative actions can impact them.
- Do not treat your children the same. This may initially confuse you but remember that every child has a different personality and as a parent, it is important to be sensitive to that. What works for one may not work for the other, especially when it comes to disciplining. You may have a child that is very sensitive and needs more emotional attention and support while another, may respond better to a different type of parenting. Recognize the talents each child has and celebrate them. If one child is jealous of a sibling, explain that everyone has their own special gifts and to be happy for their brother or sister, not resentful.
- Your love is an equal opportunist. With multiple children, it can be difficult to give everyone the amount of attention they need. That said, a large effort needs to be made in order to spend individual time with each child. This is such a great way to get to know your child, and discover what is going on in their world. How many of you, looking back at your childhood, have said, “My parents don’t understand me” or “My parents have no idea who I really am”. Don’t let history repeat itself.
At the end of the day, family is family and it is worth taking every effort to teach our children to love and respect their siblings. While we cannot eliminate the rivalry, as it is simply a part of growing up with brothers and sisters, we can take steps to managing the emotional rollercoaster that resides in all of our houses.
Ellie Hirsch is the founder of MommyMasters.com, a resource offering unique tips, tricks and tools for parents, mompreneurs, and businesses. She is a published author, award winning children’s singer/songwriter, brand ambassador and parenting news contributor. Most importantly, she is the mom to three beautiful boys.