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05Nov 13

The dos and don’ts of dealing with sibling rivalry

Sibling rivalry has existed as long as families have, and handling it requires good parenting skills. I should know – my children Tom and Mary have been sparring partners since they were toddlers!

Of course, there are some families in which brothers and sisters are not rivals, and instead like and enjoy one another, but I think this is the exception. Children with different personalities and different needs living under the same roof are inevitably going to clash.

So if sibling rivalry is normal, then how can we parents remedy it? Here are some of my tips.

Dealing with sibling rivalry

Dealing with sibling rivalry

Reasons for sibling rivalry

It’s natural for rivalry to develop given the close proximity in which most siblings live. Often the problems start when a first-born child is ousted from his or her position as the only child, like with my son Tom. Tom is two years older than my daughter Mary, so he enjoyed a couple of years as the sole apple of his parents’ eye. But when his sister came on the scene, jealously reared its ugly head, bringing with it tears and tantrums!

I found it easier to deal with the rivalry when my children were small because the spats were usually no more serious than Tom pulling Mary’s hair or Mary not sharing a toy with Tom.

As they got older, the rivalry was more difficult to curb as brother and sister became more devious. Even though Tom hates doing his homework, he always got better marks at school and rubbed this in Mary’s face. Mary, who works very hard at homework but doesn’t always get such high marks would often complain that “it’s not fair”.

Promoting sibling harmony

Tom, now aged 10, and Mary, now 8, get along better. At least, most of the time! I put this down to a few dos and don’ts that I learned along the way:

• Don’t make comparisons. Each child is unique and should be given goals which relate only to him or her.

• Don’t try to suppress your child’s feelings of resentment or anger. It’s normal for siblings to get mad at one another. But make sure that you sit down and talk it out with them.

• Do set limits on teasing. It is okay to tease, but not to hurt people’s feelings.

• Do maintain a home environment focused on teamwork.

• Do let siblings settle differences on their own when possible. This helps children develop important relationship skills and problem-solving skills. But don’t hesitate to mediate if the situation becomes destructive. It’s important to show your children that you care.

What are your tips for handling sibling rivalry?

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