No matter what ages your children are, they are bound to experience sibling rivalry at some point in their lives. Sibling rivalry is a normal part of a child’s growth and development and it happens for a number of reasons, including:

  • Competition for a caregivers’ attention
  • Siblings’ different personalities
  • Mutual or differing interests between siblings
  • Age differences
  • Favoritism shown toward one child

Regardless of the cause, remember that this is normal behavior and it will pass! In the meantime, here are six ways to manage conflict between your kids:

  1. Encourage and praise good behavior. Try making a sticker chart and prize bags (stickers, barrettes, crayons, etc.). Every time one of your kids is gentle, kind or shares with the other, add a sticker to their chart. Once they have earned five stickers, they get to pick a prize.
  2. Give each child one-on-one attention that’s meaningful to them. Each parent should aim to have 10 minutes of “special time” with each child on a daily basis or at least every other day. During this time, the child should be allowed to choose the activity (within reason) and the parent should be there to support, encourage and do as little guiding as possible. It’s also important to explain to your kids that there are times when one child may need more attention, like when they’re sick or working on a big school project.
  3. Remember that each child’s needs are different. Treating your children differently doesn’t mean you are playing favorites – it’s a way of showing them that you realize and appreciate how special they are. Also, try not to comment on the differences between your children – it’s easy for children to think they aren’t as good as their sibling if you compare them.
  4. Try to stay out of your children’s arguments. It’s also important for parents not to choose sides during sibling conflicts and to encourage children to work out their own differences. You can also try setting guidelines to help your kids resolve conflicts. If conflicts get out of hand, call a family meeting and allow everyone to express themselves. This gives even the littlest voice a chance to be heard and be part of the solution.
  5. Respect your children’s privacy. If you need to scold your kids, do it someplace private and not in front of their sibling.
  6. Try sharing your own experiences. Some kids benefit from hearing stories from their parents about their own sibling rivalry and how they dealt with it.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Eleanor Mackey, PhD, is a child psychologist and works primarily with the Obesity Institute and Children’s Research Institute. Dr. Mackey is also a mother of two girls.

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