How to manage sibling rivalry
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For parents, there is no way around it. Having more than one child likely means one thing in your household; rivalry.
And while all the bickering and competition may be irritating and stressful, rivalry is not such a bad thing when handled properly.
In fact, it can actually help build necessary lifelong skills and lead your kids to a healthier life.
No matter what the age difference, tension and conflicts tend to arise between siblings over a variety of things, ranging in severity.
"The way siblings handle these conflicts depends on several factors, but the most important is how they are taught by their parents to manage them," says Dr. Joanna Lindell, a child and adolescent psychiatrist at Advocate Children's Hospital. "If you can remember the acronym PEACE, these five tips may bring peace to your home, at least most of the time."
P: Pick and choose which rivalries to leave alone and which ones to intervene on.
Typically, small squabbles should be left for siblings to try to resolve on their own. However, the second it starts to get emotionally abusive, like insulting remarks, and/or physically abusive, parents must quickly jump in and address the conflict.
E: Eliminate equality. While children think in terms of "fair" a lot, the world mostly does not. So the earlier kids are taught this concept, the more adaptable they can become.
Example: "Just because your older sister got a new back pack does not mean you have to have one."
Explain reasons for things.
"She had hers for a long time and it is worn out, you just got a new one last year. But we can look at some new tennis shoes next week for you, since you've had yours for a while and they have holes in them."
A: Alone one-on-one time with a parent is essential.
This "special" time (a lot of sources highly recommend using the word "special" a lot) will help build each parent-child relationship and decrease resentments.
The one thing every child wants more than anything is the attention of his/her parents and will tend to fight their sibling for it, unless it is given enough.
C: Comparisons; just don't go there, especially in front of the other sibling.
This will only make one child feel worse about him or herself and the other one gloat. It's not the best lesson to teach.
Additionally, if possible and appropriate, separate each sibling when intervening in these situations. This will allow you to listen to each child's side, let them cool off, and deal with each at their developmental level.
E: Expectations; set them!
Kids do thrive on structure and rules, as much as they resist it. The clearer you can be on what is and is not appropriate, the better.
Practice the "hands-to-self" rule, encourage empathic behavior and responses and schedule family meetings to resolve disagreements, if necessary.
"Teaching your children PEACE is actually a good way to prepare them for life and for building relationships with others along the way," adds Dr. Lindell.
• Children's health is a continuing series. This week's article is courtesy of Advocate Children's Hospital. For more information, visit www. advocatechildrenshospital.com.