If you have more than one kid living under the same roof, chances are, you deal with some form of sibling rivalry. It may vary intensity from day to day and year to year and can be as mild as tattling or as intense as physical fights. And with kids out of school for the summer, that rivalry can last from the second kids wake up in the morning until they finally fall asleep at night.
Most often, sibling rivalry is caused by jealousy or competition between kids. And it can be exacerbated be other factors such as sick kids (or sick parents,) traveling, an out of town parent, mood swings, lack of sleep, lack of food, or anything else that can make a kid cranky. As a parent, it's hard to listen to your kids fight over every single aspect of their day but it is also just as hard to try to play referee and negotiator for every squabble.
This video, from the University of Berkeley's Greater Good Science Center, offers up some pretty good tips on dealing with sibling rivalry. It's worth a look:
I thought it was particularly interesting that when she talks about fairness, she says we have to focus on what our kids think is fair. My kids argue about fairness all of the time and I am constantly trying to explain to them that what works for a 10 year old may not necessarily work for a 7 year old. And vice versa. But they don't see it that way. So maybe I need to focus on how they perceive fairness rather than what I think is actually fair.
Another idea is to give kids solid skills for dealing with arguments. Siblings can gain excellent practice in the fine art of negotiation and debate if we also teach them how to present an argument and how to cool down when and if they get frustrated.
Basically, the best way to extinguish the flame of sibling rivalry is to maximize the good times that your kids have and minimize the situations in which you know they will fight. Sometimes that may be hard to predict. But if you know they always fight over the TV, why not skip the TV time altogether to avoid the fight? It doesn't have to be an argument or a punishment. You could simply tell your kids that instead of zoning in front of the TV in the evenings, its going to be family reading time or game time instead. You could avoid a squabble and gain some much needed family time in its place.
How do you deal with sibling rivalry?
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