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8 Ways to Reduce Sibling Rivalry

Question: What’s more intense than a tennis match between Serena and Venus Williams?

Answer: Two siblings, at home, fighting over a toy or attention or a pencil, a funny face or a French fry.

Sibling conflict: That’s the real racket.

In any household with more than one child, there’s the possibility of battles with the back and forth of Wimbledon.

Sibling rivalry is common, but there are steps you can take to alleviate the tension. Parents can minimize how much children battle it out. The reality is that the home has to be a safe place for your kids, and parents have to do everything possible to ensure the rivalry doesn’t become damaging to the psyche or create a more chaotic environment.

Many parents dismiss sibling rivalry as common and unavoidable. The truth is that if another child treated one of your children the way they treat each other, there’s a chance you’d march in to school and demand an end to the bullying.

It doesn’t matter who is putting your child down. If it’s a sibling, it has to be addressed in a safe way. Siblings can’t always get along, but they can get along better if you take these 8 healthy steps.

1) Make sure each child gets individual attention from each parent. This means scheduling private parent-child time for each child and parent.

2) Consider ways in which your treatment of your spouse is being mirrored by your children. Often times, snarky comments, rude remarks and yelling are often a reflection of how mom and dad treat each other. Fixing your own behavior will help.

3) Set expectation for their relationship: They will not always agree, but they always have to love and respect each other.

4) Give children a meaningful role in adding to their sibling’s life: picking out presents, applying a Band-aid, writing the younger one’s name or reading to the younger one. Remember that tasks should also be done by the younger child so there is not a subservient relationship but rather a cooperative one.

5) Offer rewards for projects that children complete together. They both have to accomplish something to get a reward. If only one child does the task, neither one gets the reward. This ensures they take equal responsibility for certain chores. It has the added benefit of avoiding resentment because one does more tasks or all the work.

6) Put children on the same team. Name the team. And remind them as often as necessary about the fundamentals of teamwork.

7) Zero tolerance for bullying. There are times when sibling disputes cross the line into bullying. This is a particular heinous type of bullying because it’s so close to home and it’s a relationship that endures for years, not just a grade.

8) Know the difference between an argument and rivalry. An argument is a disagreement. Rivalry is a dispute in which one is intentionally trying to one-up the other. An argument is part of a healthy relationship. Competition is also healthy. However, rivalry has the potential to devolve into unhealthy territory because of the insistence on being better than someone. Healthy competition is wanting to do your best against others.


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