SIBLING RIVALRY – EVERY PARENT’S WORST NIGHTMARE
Are you one of those parents, whose children are always fighting, and you wished they could just love one another, play happy families and be like your neighbour’s children who play together all the time, laughing and enjoying each other’s company. Well stop! I can show you how, but first let me assure you it is quite normal to have sibling rivalry and is even good for your kids. So assuage your guilt and rest assured you are not an abnormal parent…..
Firstly though, it is helpful to understand what is going on in their little heads.
Often they may feel threatened – Another child may take away the care and attention they have been getting. This makes them uneasy and so they will try to draw attention away from the new child so that their equilibrium is maintained.
They may feel they are receiving unequal attention – This may or not be an accurate perception. Sometimes parents do have favourites even if they don’t recognise it.
Individuality – Often kids will become outspoken as they evolve into their own person, and being outspoken is fine, but if they feel they are not being heard and respected that is when troubles will begin. Also what can happen is children develop at their own rates, and so resentment may arise if the other child is developing faster.
Boredom – Surprisingly boredom can be at the root of a lot of fighting. Parents need to step in and impart some wisdom and suggestions on activities.
Parental Influences – If parents are stressed out to the max they are not going to be meeting the emotional and any other needs of their children. They will either avoid what is going on or be extra stern in delivery of punishment. Also, if parents portray a negative role model to their children, the children will be likely to act out in a similar manner.
Keep in mind that it is normal for young children to be fighting up to six times an hour, while older children less.
Now the question in mind, is how all of this can be good for your children. Well it seems that all the fighting teaches a greater sophistication in communication. It is also teaching your children about the subtleties of language, and regulation of their emotions as well as how they affect the emotions of others. Parents can take comfort that their fighting children are learning conflict negotiation skills, social skills and intelligence which can be used later in life. They begin to learn self control and angry impulses can be changed to assertive communication.
There are times though when you just can’t bear it. If it gets to that stage you need to be reevaluating your strategies.
WHAT CAN PARENTS DO
- Don’t play favourites – (I don’t think that needs explanation)
- Don’t make comparisons – (Explanations not needed for that either)
- Have a common target the children work towards not compete with each other (Put the focus on the clean room not who does a better job)
- Notice patterns or time of day when conflicts may occur (When hungry, thirsty or tired they may play up more)
- Don’t pigeon hole or label your kids – (No! he is not the clever one…. Or the Naughty one)
- Show them different ways of approaching things and each other (Provide options)
- Plan family activities that can be fun for all (Neutral activities like time at the beach, or watching a movie together)
- Spend one on one with each child (It only has to be 10 minutes of undivided attention)
- Be fair and consistent with each (each deserve individual attention, and appropriate for their age)
- Set the ground rules so they know what is and isn’t acceptable
- Don’t get involved with the battles. Let them sort it (Don’t step in… they need to learn)
- Anticipate problems (Be prepared and act accordingly)
- Listen to your children when they are wanting to vent their feelings – don’t dismiss them (acknowledge what they feel, you don’t have to agree)
- Help them channel their aggressive feelings into creative outlets (Get them chopping wood, hammering nails, colouring pictures, in other words, rechannel them)
- Show them better ways to express anger (You can’t stop them being angry, but you can show them how to deal with it better)
- Children don’t need to be treated equally they need to be treated uniquely (Give according to individual need)
- Don’t focus your attention on the aggressor focus instead on the victim first (Bit you! Let me see. Oh my, it’s all red. That must hurt)
- Focus on their abilities not their disabilities
HOW PARENTS CAN RESPOND TO FIGHTING KIDS
- Accept feelings – “It can be frustrating to have a baby brother”
- Describe what you see – Notice and appreciate the positive interactions between Siblings – “You figured out how to cheer up your sister when she was crying”
- Provide the child responsibility – so that he has an opportunity to see himself differently “Can you pick up a board book for the baby/ She likes it when you read to her”
- Reconnect with your child – Plan for special one–on-one – “Would you like to make cookies when the baby takes her nap” – Or snuggle up and read your pop up truck book – Tell the older child stories about his baby days . I remember when you….
- Take action without insult – Avoid casting a child in the role of aggressor – “We need to separate I don’t want anyone getting hurt”
- Try Problem solving – Resist the urge to take sides and don’t minimise the problem – “Jamie wants to build by himself and Kara wants to touch the blocks. This is a tough problem. We need ideas ”
To Problem solve
Step 1: Talk about the child’s feelings and needs. Don’t rush this part. Let your attitude be. I’m really trying to get clear on how you feel about all this. Only when she feels understood will she be able to consider your feelings
Step 11. Talk about your feelings and needs. Keep this part short and clear. No child wants to hear their parent go on and on
Step 111. Brainstorm together to find a mutually agreeable solution. If possible, let the child come up with the first few ideas. The crucial point here is to refrain from evaluating or commenting on any of these ideas. The instant you say, “Well that’s no good”, the whole process ends. All ideas should be welcomed. The key sentence is “We’re writing down all our ideas”
Step 1V. Write down all ideas – without evaluation. Don’t make put down statements. Instead describe your personal reactions:
Step V. Decide which suggestions you like, which you don’t like and which you plan to follow through on. “I wouldn’t be comfortable with that Because…” or “That sounds like something I could do”
Step V1 Follow through – Don’t get so carried away with your good feelings of having come up with a workable solution, that you don’t bother to make a specific plan to follow through. It’s important to add: What steps do we have to take to get this plan into action?- Who’ll be responsible for what – By when shall we have it done
Step V11 Don’t permit the child to blame or accuse you at any point. t’s important the parent be firm when this happens. “No accusations or talk about the past. What we’re trying to do now is to focus on a solution for the future!
If the plan falls through after a while, go back to the drawing board.
DIFFERENT LEVELS OF FIGHTING
Level One – Normal Bickering – you can ignore it
Level Two – Situation Heating Up – Adult intervention might be useful
Level Three – Is it play or is it a real fight – If play, it needs to be by mutual consent
Level Four – Damage about to be done – Definite Intervention required
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