Being siblings does not equate to being automatic friends. You can choose your friends but you can’t choose your siblings. Each child is an individual with his or her own personality. They have different likes, aspirations, strengths, temperaments, etc. These many differences can cause them to be at logger heads a lot. The fact that they quarrel does not mean that their parents are bad. However, there are certain things parents could do that may make sibling rivalry worse.
- Making it seem like such a huge deal – When friends have disputes, if it is handled the right way, they end up knowing more about each other and their friendship is strengthened. Some parents make a mountain out of a mole hill when it comes to squabbles amongst their kids. They make it seem like siblings should not quarrel at all. Truth is like it or not, it’s bound to happen. Your part is to ensure that they understand that this is a normal part of building relationships and encourage them to channel such misunderstandings to getting to know each other better.
- Comparing Kids- ‘I wish you were more like your brother’ does not make things any better. It just increases resentment and worsens rivalry. Celebrate the strength of each child and encourage them to work on their weaknesses. You have to make a deliberate effort not to compare them or else each child would feel as though they are never enough.
- Picking a favorite – I think this may be a little tricky for some parents but you have to try not to pick favorites. Kids who perceive that they are not mommy or daddy’s favorite could decide to act out and resent the “choice” child.
- Always intervening – It may seem like the best thing to do is to settle every dispute that comes up. This however is not the ideal way to go. Your kids need to learn to talk about issues and find a way to resolve them. They are going to be together for a while; the earlier they learn to sort out conflicts on their own, the better for everyone including you the parents who would not be there every time. Also intervening all the time may put you in a position of picking a side which the “opposition” may not take too kindly to (this has turned into real serious business). Believe me, you don’t want to hear “How come you always take her side?” now that is the start of another disagreement and trust me Mama or Papa, you have been successfully roped into this one!
The following are some steps to try.
- Accepting your kids just the way they are – you first need to accept them knowing that no two persons are the same even twins. Then you should teach them to accept themselves and their siblings just the way they are. As individuals, teach them to become better and highlight the fact that becoming better is a gradual process- so you don’t put too much pressure on them. You could give them examples with your life. When I was younger, I used to ________ but now I have outgrown ______ and I had to learn this. You can even highlight some things you are still working on. Encourage them not to throw the faults of their siblings in their face all the time; instead the aim is to gradually work through things.
- Teach and exemplify proper conflict resolution. Teach your kids to listen to the points made by the other person and to have empathy. They watch you closely. They see how their parents resolve issues with each other or how each parent settles disagreements with their siblings.
- Don’t allow people compare your kids- friends, extended family members, colleagues and even friends to your kids may compare your children. If you are present, you should stop them immediately.
- Organize family meetings where children are allowed to express themselves. You would be surprised what could be unearthed at such meetings. You just might find out particular issues bothering your kids that when sorted out can help resolve recurring disputes. Some children might have some ideas which may affect their self-esteem or cause them to resent a sibling for instance.
- Be observant; spend time with your kids. Let them be free to express themselves by not shutting them down anytime they say something you do not agree with. Instead listen, show empathy, then give a guiding hand to show them what is right. This way, you may find out underlying thought patterns that may be contributing to sibling rivalry.
The differences in the people that make up the family unit make things beautiful and fun. The squabbles and fights may just be a passing phase on your kids’ way to becoming best of friends. Its stressful Mama and Papa but don’t worry, this too shall pass.