sibling rivalry

If you are expecting another child or you already have multiple children, then you have two wishes for them: to be good friends and to not fight all the time.

Good luck.   However, there are several things you can do to facilitate a great relationship between them and fewer headaches for you.  The most important technique (and maybe the most overlooked) is to not pit them against each other.  You want to build them up as a team.   This can happen several ways:

Don’t ask them who did what

This is so common and it make sense, you want to know what happened when you walked out of the room for 5 minutes and now they are both upset and presumably, one of them is to blame and we need to know who.  But what this does is immediately asks one to get the other into trouble.  It immediately asks them to rat on the other and make everything worse.  You watched Breaking Bad right?  Ratting somebody out isn’t a good thing and certainly doesn’t gain points with anyone.  So when you walk in on siblings who are crying, wrestling, upset, etc., ask, “What is the problem?  How can we solve it?”  This way you are working towards a solution rather than stuck on blame.  And you know who was to blame? (probably both of them…or hunger, or tiredness)

Constantly talk about how they are so good to each other

Even if they aren’t.  This is the magic of positive thinking.  If they believe that they are great siblings, then they will be great siblings.  If you catch either one do anything for the other then talk about how they are taking such good care of their sibling.  Let them over hear you say to another adult how they are great siblings and always look out for the other one.  They will absorb that information like a sponge.

Help them problem solve

This is just an extended version of the first tip.  They are going to have opposing viewpoints, ideas and thoughts on just about everything.  One wants to go to the park and the other one wants to go to the pool.  One wants pizza for dinner and the other wants steak.  It takes a bit longer and it can be exhausting to talk them through problem solving but the benefit of having them work it out themselves before too long is SO worth it!

Let me break it down:

Child a: I want pizza!

Child b: No I want steak!!

You: OK, we have a problem, what is the problem? (Identifying the problem is the first step to them solving it on their own- if they can’t identify the problem they get stuck in you vs. me.  At first they will need lots of support in identifying the problem but will be able to do it by themselves after a while)

Child a: We want different things for dinner.

You: OK, what are some solutions?

Child b: We can have steak this time and pizza next time.

Child a: NO! That’s not a good solution!  I want pizza! We have pizza this time and steak next time!

You: Either of those solutions might work, or I have another solution: we can have neither and have grilled cheese instead.

(Other solutions depending on your parenting style can be that each makes their own dinner, go out to dinner so that they can get their own, have neither, have both, etc.   Be creative!)

Don’t force them to share when taking turns is more appropriate

Children feel resentful of siblings when they feel like the sibling is taking their stuff.  So be sure to never use the term “share” as a reason to give another child a toy.  There should be a handful of things that belong to only one child and can only be used by that one child.  Examples of these might be a lovey, a super special toy, or things that only fit a certain child like a bike.  The other child never gets to play with that one or two things.  Every thing else may “belong” to one child but can be used by all or belong to the whole family (like books, balls, dolls, trucks or blocks).  If it isn’t the special toy, then turns can be taken.  This doesn’t mean that a child has to give up a toy, just that the other child gets a turn when the first child is finished using it.

Enjoy them for their differences

Last but not least, your children will likely be complete opposites from each other.  This may mean that one of them is more like you and one of them is not like you at all.  Embrace those differences and don’t try to fight them.  I often find that spending time with the child who is less like me can be an eye-opening experience and I learn so much.   Also don’t comment on how you would like one to be more like the other.  For instance, if you are a clean freak and so is one child but the other one isn’t, refrain from saying, “Why can’t you help clean up like child A?”  Or if you love to go biking but only one child has that same drive then be sure to hold yourself back and not say, “Why don’t you like biking? Child B loves it!”  When you embrace their differences rather than point them out and get frustrated, they will embrace their differences as well!