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Sibling Rivalry- Strategies to Manage the Inevitable!

Sibling rivalry, like parent guilt, tantrums and snotty noses seem to be part of the whole ‘parenting package’. Can we win the war, or should we simply be prepared to manage the individual battles whilst minimising the casualties?

These are some of the things my kids fight over:

TV, Xbox and computer usage, who cheated when playing ‘2 square’, who hit who first, who was sitting at the good end of the couch first, who last emptied the dishwasher, and so on and so on. Nothing out of the ordinary really and most of the time ‘semi manageable’, depending on mood, temperament and amount of sleep had on the previous night by all parties involved.

Sibling rivalry …..been around forever and whilst we insist on procreating more than once per family, some many times more than once,  then it will continue to be the  bane of many a parents life and the one thing getting in the way of harmony, peace and a tranquil family environment. Ok so maybe harmony, peace and tranquility don’t all belong in the same sentence as family, particularly large families, so lets just say that sibling rivalry can be really annoying and something we may just need to learn to live with, or at least make more manageable.

The reasons kids fight:

  • Jealousy– nothing like a scrunched up newborn to take up all the goo-ing and gaa-ing from family, friends and relatives.
  • Who had What First -Toys, Games, TV, computers, “He’s had it for ages”, “He played it all yesterday”, “He never shares with me” ,”We hate this show” and so on..
  • Cheating, unfair play, wrestling – I have lumped these together because this is where you are often witnessing a ‘no-win’ situation.  No-one was wrong, no-one hit first, no-one moved their piece 6 places when the dice said 5 and no one said you couldn’t go out on the first ball!
  • Different Temperaments – The old clash of personalities. Disposition, mood and an individuals adaptability can also play a role in how siblings get along.  I have 2 sons who find it almost impossible to be near each other without touching each other, whilst the son in between them in age has no interest in getting involved in their tit for tat nudging, pulling and prodding…and so doesn’t.  Some kids may be easily rattled, whilst their more ‘laid back personality’ sibling knows just how to push their buttons! Some kids may also resent the attention a ‘clingy’ kid gets from mum or dad.
  • Evolving Needs of kids depending on their developmental stage:  Toddlers  arevery protective of toys, belongings and parents attention and thus  are beginning to assert their will.    School Age Kids  tend to have developed a sense of fairness, equality and a ideology of  right and wrong. It is very normal to hear  “It’s just not fair, he always goes first/he got the biggest piece last time/he always gets out of doing it….”  These statements ar often heard spewing forth from the disgruntled and particularly hard done by school-age sibling.   Teenagers  are beginning to develop a sense of individuality and independence and thus may resent doing household chores, looking after siblings or participating in ‘family events and outings’.

So if these are the reasons siblings fight, it seems inevitable that these fights are to be an ongoing battle that will continue in ebbs and flows throughout a child’s developing life…..and often well into adulthood! We are who we are, and personalities often mean that arguments and conflict are not only a common experience of life but also an important and healthy experience of ones childhood, as long as rivalry remains safe and manageable.

So what are some of the things we can do to ensure that it does remain safe and manageable…and what are some of the strategies we can put in place for the times when we really don’t need to be listening to their squabbles…..

What to do about it :

  • Ignore – this is what I do with wrestling, bickering, poking etc. If it is really annoying me, or the noise is too loud, or it is going to escalate before it gets better…then I either send them outside to wrestle on the trampoline where they are not to return unless they have got it all out of their systems or have broken bones, whichever comes first,  or I just separate them, ask (tell) them to go into separate rooms and stay away from each other.
  • Schedule – this is for fighting about items. If one child is monopolising the computer, game controller or TV remote, then we agree on a time limit each.
  • Take away offending item – this is for when scheduling doesn’t work and I can still hear the fighting over the aforementioned item. The next step is to simply take away the item, turn off the TV or computer and leave them to go off on their merry ways, read a book, make a nice card for each other, do a load of washing, start the dinner…..sorry I’m wavering….or find something else to fight about!
  • Role Model – This is for arguments and disagreements that are purely verbal (hopefully). If kids see the way you and your partner resolve conflict then they are more likely to mirror this in their own conflict resolutions. So be sure to respect each others opinions, give each other a chance to be heard and try to find a compromise.

So there you have it…no, not groundbreaking, and not going to put an end to sibing rivalry. But the main points to take away with you are:

  • Sibling rivalry is normal but can be managed with some specific strategies
  • It is important to let kids solve their own conflicts rather than have them run to you at every squabble.
  • if they are unable to resolve a fight effectively,  then try and be consistent in how you deal with the conflict so that they begin to know whether something is going to be worth fighting over, or whether they should try and find a compromise instead.
  • Role model healthy conflict resolution

If all else fails…make a cuppa, lock yourself in another room, turn the music up loud and grab a magazine!

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5 Responses to Sibling Rivalry- Strategies to Manage the Inevitable!

  1. Prue April 3, 2011 at 11:23 pm #

    No flippin’ and tippin’! Some of life’s greatest stories come out of the reminiscence of sibling rivalry. As long as they all love each other, it’ll work out ok.

  2. Kellie April 7, 2011 at 3:20 pm #

    I laughed at your last line! 🙂
    With a three year old and six month old, we haven’t quite got to this stage yet. So I’m making the most of not enduring sibling rivalry while it lasts!!

    • Martine April 7, 2011 at 5:53 pm #

      Well we must always have a backup plan!

  3. Glowless April 9, 2011 at 1:43 am #

    I do love the last line 😉

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