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9 Steps to Help Improve Sibling Rivalry

It’s always upsetting to find your children fighting with each other. We’ll help you put a stop to it.


Your toddler is going through the terrible twos. The minute his older sister won’t play with him or when she refuses to let him play with her toys, he provokes her. Her instinctive reaction is to hit back. Before you know it, the two of them are fighting with each other.

Sibling rivalry is always upsetting because it creates such a terrible atmosphere at home. Here are nine tips for improving their relationship:


1. Pay attention to their complaints

An endless list of moans and groans from your under-fives can make your day seem like an eternity. But listen to what they have to say – they feel better knowing that you are prepared to listen. Ask them to explain why they think their sibling has behaved badly towards them.


2. Never compare them with each other

Comparisons are guaranteed to cause tension between them. No matter how tempted you may be to say: “Your older sister is much more polite than you,” resist such statements at all costs. Comparisons are divisive and only increase rivalry.


3. Encourage your kids to cooperate

If they are always antagonistic towards each other, allocate joint activities so they are forced to work together (for instance, tidying up the toy box). Supervise to ensure that they do work in unison. It’s also helpful to encourage them to play games together.


4. Treat each child as an individual

The fact that your kindergartener likes playing a particular game doesn’t mean that your toddler likes it, as well. Each of your children has personal likes and dislikes. Sibling rivalry is less likely when they’re allowed to develop their individuality at home.


5. Ask them to justify their protests

Encourage them to give specific examples of the annoying behaviour rather than making general accusations. When there is no real justification, point that out.


6. Ignore minor bickering

Obviously, you have to get involved when they start hitting each other or when they are very upset. But try not to jump in too soon if their arguments are petty. This approach may end their little quarrel sooner than if you were to “reward” their disagreement with your immediate attention.


7. Teach conflict resolution

When you must intervene, don’t just drag them apart and put them into separate rooms. Keep them together when you’re trying to sort out their disagreement. Ask each in turn to give their account of what happened. Listen objectively to what they have to say to you, and summarise the problem at the end.


8. Rule out physical aggression

Make it clear that they aren’t allowed to hit each other, ever. They should understand that the only way they can express their disagreement is through words, not through physical attacks.


9. Search for solutions

All problems can be resolved if everyone makes an effort. After you hear out their grumbles, suggest a solution. For instance, if they both want to play with the same toy or game, tell them they must learn to take turns – one can play with it for five minutes, and then the other one can take over.


For more help taming your toddler, click here!


By Dr. Richard C. Woolfson, Young Parents, July 2015

Photo: 123rf.com

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