Sibling rivalry is one of the most common issues that parents of multiple children experience. It often seems like a never-ending battle between two siblings trying to establish their own place in the family. Parents deal with conflict and sibling fighting on a daily basis, and it can be very stressful. It is important to find proper ways to work through these issues so that everyone involved can feel more comfortable and supported as they continue their development as individuals and as part of the family unit.
In this article, you will explore some effective strategies to help you manage sibling rivalry and some Montessori parenting tips to support the development of a peaceful, loving environment for everyone in the family. But first, let’s understand why sibling rivalry occurs:
Why Do Siblings Fight?
Sibling rivalry is a natural phenomenon that can appear at any stage of childhood but is most common between 2 and 4 years old. While it can be very frustrating to deal with, sibling fights benefit both siblings, parents, and the whole family. Explanations for why children fight often focus on competition and the drive to gain power or advantage in the family system. But this only tells part of the big story. There are other reasons why siblings fight.
- Individual temperaments – Your kid’s character, moods, and adaptability can influence how they get along. For instance, one child may be outgoing and sociable, while another is quiet and sensitive. They may always get into it.
- Special needs – If one of your kids has special needs, this can greatly impact your other child. For instance, if one child is with you more often than the other, because they have some special needs which keep them at home or the doctor’s office more often than a sibling who doesn’t have special needs, this can lead to a situation where the sibling feels jealous and left out.
- Parental praise – When you consistently rate one child’s behavior as better than another, you send the message that there is more room for improvement. Or that one of your kids isn’t good enough just as they are. When one kid is being compared to another, it’s not surprising if this triggers some anger and resentment on the part of your child who feels unfairly criticized or put down. And then, naturally, this leads to fighting or arguing between siblings.
Sibling Rivalry Is Inevitable But Manageable
You must keep in mind that sibling rivalry is just part of the developmental process. It inevitably happens when siblings are playing, walking, hugging, or just going through the day. No matter what you do, it will get out of hand sometimes and be quite a struggle to handle, but all hope is not lost. There may be no way to prevent bickering forever, but there are effective ways to minimize conflicts and maximize productive resolution. Start with small changes.
At Montessori Academy, we emphasize helping parents understand the causes and patterns of sibling rivalry at a young age. We strongly believe that effort to identify the root cause and change it can help parents train their kids to manage sibling fights. Here are ten key tips for conflict prevention and intervention among siblings:
Ways To Prevent Sibling Rivalry
There are various ways to build a family dynamic in which any forms of sibling rivalry is not the norm and is a rarity. But we will give the five most important points.
Stay Calm And In Control
When you are raising two or more kids, you will face many daily challenges, and sometimes conflict is inevitable. What’s important is to keep it constructive for the good of all involved. When your kids are upset, the best way to handle it is to stay calm and in control. It helps them calm down their emotions and keeps you from losing authority. When there’s a conflict between siblings, usually one of them overreacts rather than playing out your expectations for the situation.
Build A Cooperative Environment
It’s important to create a cooperative environment from the beginning. The more a family cooperates, the fewer children have to compete for parental attention. One way to build cooperation is by creating routines and rituals your kids follow together. For example, every morning, you do something as a family before going to work or school, like reading aloud books or playing engaging games and activities. It helps your kids feel that they are all contributing something valuable within the family structure while they are still at home.
Celebrating individuality is a key to maintaining a cooperative relationship between siblings. By celebrating individuality, you are not only acknowledging and accepting differences but also helping kids understand that everyone in the family is unique. This way, young children learn to respect each other’s differences without becoming jealous and resentful. Begin by avoiding labels and letting each kid know that they’re important to you by spending quality time with them individually. If one kid loves to spend time reading a book, snuggle up next to them. If the other child likes to run around outside, grab your sneakers and join them.
Organize Fun Family Time
It’s important to schedule activities together. When you plan an activity like biking, cooking, or playing family games together, it helps prevent sibling rivalry from arising in the first place. And when they do fight over something that you’re doing together, give them time to talk and resolve the conflict between themselves. It is important as this will help them learn to get along through positive interactions.
Treat Kids Fairly
For most parents, fairness is important, yet fairness doesn’t always mean equality. Rewards and punishments must be tailored to your little ones’ individual needs. For instance, you don’t need to give the siblings the same toy. Instead, provide them with toys suited to their ages and interests. This kind of fairness will teach them to accept their differences and handle conflict constructively.
Be A Good Role Model In Your Relationship With Your Kids
Establishing a good relationship with your children will serve as a strong foundation to help them learn to understand and handle conflicts better. Be open and honest with your little ones and let them know they can talk to you about almost anything; there’s no problem they can’t solve together. After all, they would want to have a fair share in your joys and triumphs too.
Ways to Handle Conflict Between Your Kids
What do you do when there’s inevitable sibling rivalry? Here are some tips you can use to deal with it.
1. It takes two to tangle
When brothers or sisters are arguing, they will turn to you seeking help and attention, so it’s important that you have all the information on your side and focus on each kid’s role in the situation. Know exactly what happened, who started the argument, when and where it happened, as well as what was said. It lets you talk things over with your kids privately and come to a resolution at home.
2. Listen to your children
During a fight, kids are in a very emotional state, so it’s important to give them the chance to talk it out before you start to act. Don’t jump in immediately with how the situation was handled at home; or what your expectations were for them. Instead, listen to what your children have to say and then decide on how to proceed from there. Kids will be more likely to calm and cooperate if they feel valued and heard. If your kid starts to hit, make them understand that violence is not acceptable and tolerated. Tell your children that using words is the way to solve a conflict, and you’ll be present to hear them out.
3. Provide kids with problem-solving tools
In order to avoid future conflicts and help kids learn to deal with arguments, teach your kids problem-solving skills. For example, if your child is fighting with their sibling over a toy that’s not appropriate for them both to share, show how they can work it out by talking or coming up with a solution together. It’s also important to model how you deal with sibling issues in your everyday life. This way, they’ll be able to see you as an example of how they should handle disagreements.
4. Make the punishments private
If you have siblings and they’ve done something wrong, it can be tempting to reprimand them all at once and in front of each other. However, this will only make things worse. If you need to punish your kids, do so one-on-one or let the kids know ahead of time that you don’t want them to witness the actions being taken.
5. Organize a family meeting
Many times, kids argue because they don’t know what the expectations are. One way to resolve this is to organize a family meeting. During the meeting, have each kid talk about what their sibling does that’s upsetting them. Then come up with a plan together for how to handle it. That way, your whole family will be on the same page going forward, and you can avoid future conflicts. It’s also a great opportunity to set family rules that members can agree to follow. Place or hang these rules in space easy to see and refer back to, like the refrigerator door or bathroom mirror. It is to remind everyone of their commitment to being a happy family.
You should expect to deal with sibling rivalry throughout your child’s life, particularly when kids become teenagers. Doing all of these things is not going to eliminate sibling conflict, but it will help to minimize it and make it easier for you and your kids to work through the situation together. Remember that setting good examples for your children is one of the best ways they can learn how to communicate with each other in a positive manner. They see what you do every day, and you’re the person they will be looking up to as a role model.
We at Montessori Academy support you on this journey with your child. If you have concerns or want to know more about how we help your child develop into a well-rounded person, please don’t hesitate to contact us. Our staff members will be happy to answer all your questions.
If you found this helpful article, then make sure you share it with the other parents in your life who are struggling with similar issues.