Children spend a lot of time with their siblings. In a given school week its about 60 hours, 100 hours during a holiday week. In total brothers and sisters spend about 3,500 hours per year in each others company. Likely more time than spouses spend with each other. However, we as adults try coping mechanisms to reduce our rows and quarrels and to manage the fallout when they inevitably take place.
How can we help build similar approaches for our kids?
Based on raising 4 magnificent kids, here are my 10 ways a Parent can help to reduce Sibling Rivalry.
#1 When toddlers or very young children are becoming irate with each other, physically move them away from each other. If one is scribbling on the others drawing, move one to a different table. Car safety seats at opposite corners on the back seat. A Parent in between at the meal table.
#2 Sports for Older Children close in age, where they would play on the same team consider unique activities / sports for each child. The 6-year-old plays Soccer whilst the 7-year-old plays Gaelic. If both play on the same team, a rivalry will undoubtedly take place. If this situation is unavoidable stress fun as the objective, not goals.
#3 Equal Activities & Equal Hours. As an ideal try to create a situation where siblings have the same number of
activities and playing for approximately the same number of hours during the week. In our house, each child has 2 activities with no more than 4 events per child per week. “You want to start swimming – great!. Now, which are you going to drop Rugby or Kick-boxing? But this is an ideal situation, imbalances will undoubtedly occur. We have an older fella who has 1 sport 5 days a week - it's unequal. We tell him and the others such openly – there is inequality but then we address that inequality with treats or one-on-one wooden board games like the compendium here.
#4 Prize shrines for one particular child should be confined within that child's bedroom only. No family-space shrines – you don't want a public expression of pride showered on one child only to the exclusion of others. If it's a shared bedroom, I reckon only show the latest prizes, with others put into storage.
#5 Absolute No-No’s – No hitting, No body slagging, No personality slagging nor intelligence slagging. In our house, we simply won't allow it. Yes, of course it happens – we simply call it out - “body slagging is not allowed”. If it persists with pre-adolescents, threaten and carry out treat reduction “that's 30 minutes less of X-Box for you my-dear”. For our 2 adolescents, we again call it out and tell them the implication. “Your sister is not stupid, calling her stupid undermines her confidence, please stop doing that”. It doesn't eliminate it, but it does strongly reduce it.
#6 Comparisons: Never compare the shortcomings of one child against the glories of another. It never worked when we were kids and it doesn't work now. It lets off parental steam yes, but quite simply it only makes matters worse and can build resentment against that other child.
#7 Arguments happen, give them space to kick off a lively discussion. Maybe younger Sis deserves a telling off for taking older Sis’s clothes without permission. Don't take sides if it gets too hot, rather act as a ref redirecting accusations to self-reflecting statements. “So how would you feel if your lovely top was taken by somebody without permission ?”
#8 Private Property needs to be stored in a private place. “If you don't want your pencil to be used, don't leave it on the kitchen table, rather put it in your room.”
#9 Improve natural and effective communication. Family games are brilliant, it gets everyone talking. As adults, we have our most insightful yet relaxed conversations when undertaking tasks together with other adults. It's the same with younger kids when gathered as a family playing, for example, a memory game. Where the focus is on some task, it is so much easier to talk about stress points EG while playing a family board game with the two younger ones we sorted the issue of borrowing (more like taking) the others pencils. This in-direct approach is easier than directly talking it out, when the emotion clouds the likelihood of a jointly agreed solution.
#10 Lastly, some Easy Wins or battles easily avoided learned through bitter experience!!!
Wooden stacking blocks are a solitary and not a joint sibling activity. Joint stacking will result in a “Stacker” quickly seeing the benefits of becoming a “Toppler”.
Never get a “one seat in front of the other” twin buggy, hair pulling at an unimagineable scale will inevitably happen.
Buy industrial quantities of pencils, rubbers (erasers) and sharpeners. It saves sibling hassle in the home and at school.
Parent does:- Bank in Monopoly Millionaire, fills The Secret Pocket in Cluedo and selects The Letters for everyone in Scrabble – no discussions!!!