Anyone who grew up with siblings understands what sibling rivalry is. Even those of us who only had one brother or sister growing up felt a little bit jealous of our siblings at least once in our lives. Sibling rivalry usually forms when one child feels like the other gets more attention, has more going for him/her, is more popular, etc., which, by the way, is completely normal.
While a little sibling rivalry is normal, what’s not normal is for one sibling to feel so slighted by the other one that they become resentful towards their sibling. Sadly, this is a story that happens all the time around the world and, in many cases, siblings end up growing distant or not even speaking towards one another when they reach adulthood.
As a parent, this is not something that I want to happen with my children. And, I believe that parents can do a lot to help minimize sibling rivalry. The key to minimizing sibling rivalry is for parents to make each of their children feel valued. They each need to feel like they bring something unique to the home and that they are people that others enjoy being around. So, how can parents do this?
· Compliment Regularly – We all enjoy receiving compliments. It doesn’t matter if it’s someone telling us our hair looks nice one day or if it’s a compliment regarding a particular task we’ve completed. Compliments improve our mood, self-confidence and sometimes even our self-worth. This is also true for children. Therefore, it’s important that parents take the time to compliment each of their children on a regular basis. This does not mean to compliment over every little thing in hopes that it will boost the child’s self-image…parents need to give sincere compliments. Kids can see through “fake” compliments.
· Spend Time Alone with Each Child – One of the biggest things parents can do to help minimize sibling rivalry is to carve time out of their weekly schedules for each child. Spending time alone with each child, helps parents build a strong relationship with each of their children which also works to help children realize that they are loved and valued by their parents for who they are. It is important that parents work to give each child (assuming there aren’t disabilities involved) roughly the same amount of alone time each week so none of the kids feel slighted.
· Be Slow to Choose Sides – Taking sides during sibling arguments can be a big mistake for parents if done a lot. If parents are siding with one child more than another, the other child may begin to feel like his/her brother or sister is the favorite. One of the best pieces of advice I’ve heard was from a friend who said she does everything she can to not choose sides when her daughters argue. Instead, what she does is tell them both to go to a bedroom and not to come out until they have reached an agreement that both of them are fine with. This teaches the kids to work out their own problems without mom or dad breaking up the argument by siding with one or the other.