When it comes to sibling rivalry, parents are often told to "ignore it unless there's blood." However, you don't have to be a helicopter parent to feel uncomfortable ignoring conflict between your children. In fact, there are numerous ways to deal with sibling rivalry, and choosing the one that's best for your children will depend on the situation, as well as your kids' temperaments. Here are six unconventional ways to tackle sibling rivalry in your home:
1. Redefine “Fair”
Kids often assume that “fair” implies all things being exactly equal. For example, your four-year-old may feel that it’s not “fair” that you spend more time tending to your two-year-old’s needs. To deal with this effectively, you’ll have to redefine what “fair” means. Rather than fair being exactly equal, fair really means that everyone is getting their needs met. Reassure the child who’s feeling jealous that his needs really are being met, even though your younger child may temporarily require more time and attention.
2. Spend More One-on-One Time With the Child Who’s Feeling Jealous
All children need one-on-one attention now and then, and a child who’s suddenly begun to express some sibling rivalry may be trying to tell you that he needs more of your time and attention. Don’t make the mistake of thinking that granting that wish would be “rewarding” poor behavior. On the contrary, building some more one-on-one time into your lives is a way of meeting your child’s needs and proactively dealing with incidences of sibling rivalry.
3. Limit Access to Items That Create Conflict
Sometimes sibling rivalry erupts over certain objects or toys. When this happens, it’s time to reevaluate where those items are stored and played with. Are they kept in a common area where both kids can reach them? How much would storing these items in separate areas decease that sibling rivalry? Just storing certain toys in your kids’ own rooms (or in a separate area) so that they can’t be played with without permission works to resolve some of the conflict.
4. Teach Your Kids to Stand Up for Themselves
Sibling rivalry is actually a huge opportunity to teach our kids how to stand up for themselves. Whether your kids are arguing over what TV show to watch, or who gets the last packet of fruit snacks, teach them to talk to one another and stand up for what they believe to be true. The more they can practice this skill at home, the more likely they’ll be to stand up for themselves out in the world later on.
5. Hold a Family Meeting to Discuss Sibling Rivalry
Another strategy for dealing with sibling rivalry is to discuss the issue in a family meeting. Tell your children why you want them to get along with one another, and give each person in the family an opportunity to express his or her point of view. In addition, work together to create new rules or guidelines as needed to deal with the situations that most frequently lead to conflicts and disagreements.
6. Reconsider When You Need to Intervene
Many of us are so used to getting involved that we jump in when our kids are having fun with one another, too. So the next time your kids get loud, consider what they’re doing before you intervene. Are they loud because they’re laughing and having fun, or is there an actual conflict that needs to be dealt with?
Finally, make sure that you’re working just as hard to foster positive sibling relationships as you are to break apart conflict and sibling rivalry when you see it.