If you have more than one child, you’ve experienced sibling rivalry. Parents tend to want any and all sibling disagreements to just stop now. The truth is sibling disagreements can be beneficial. Siblings need to know what the mom on the TV show Sisters told her daughters over and over again, “Who is there for you from cradle to grave — your sisters!” Parents need to know that the sibling relationship is also a trial run for adult relationships.
During childhood, siblings learn how mean words and actions impact others. They learn what it takes to give in, especially when they don’t want too. They learn what it feels like to be compassionate. And what it feels like when someone isn’t compassionate with them. They learn to do things for others because they love them, even when they don’t want to.
Three Tips for Making Sibling Rivalry Beneficial
The best way to stop the sibling wars is to change the way you look at rivalry. If a parent can shift his or her thinking from believing that a parent is supposed to be in charge of breaking up fights, to realizing that the rivalry is an opportunity to teach skills for their future, there will be less frustration for everyone.
1. Help the Kids Work it Out Themselves
Instead of deciding who’s right and who’s wrong, teach children how to resolve their differences with your help. What they learn now will become the basis for how they’ll resolve personal and business issues later.
Always help the kids learn how to work things out versus resorting to punishment or sending them to another room to figure it out alone.
Turn to one child and ask, “What do you want to say about this?”
Then turn to the other child and ask the same question.
This allows the children to feel heard and shows them there are no favorites.
After the children have stated their points of view, turn to one child and ask, “What can you do to make this situation better?” Then turn to the next child and ask the same thing. This teaches them that it takes two to create an issue, and two to resolve it.
2. Feelings Count
Children often say, “But I didn’t mean to.” They need to know that those words don’t excuse their actions. Whether they meant to, or not, their actions hurt or upset another person, and that means they have to genuinely say, “I’m sorry” and fix the mess they created.
3. Don't Compare Your Kids
Both my kids are talented artists; of course I’m biased. When they were little my older one used pencils as his medium. My younger one would never draw at all because he felt his brother had already taken the “artist” slot. I used to encourage him to draw different things than his brother, but he still felt compared to his brother. Then the younger one found watercolors and exclaimed, “I’m not like brother any more, he draws and I paint!” He found his unique niche.
The next time you’re dealing with sibling issues, whether it's about sharing or something else, try changing the way you look at things before you respond. You’ll probably see something you can help them discover about themselves along the way to resolving this.
Sharon Silver is the author of Stop Reacting and Start Responding and Parenting Skills e-class. Go to www.proactiveparenting.net to download two free chapters of the book and learn about our flagship big-picture program. Find Sharon on Twitter and Facebook.