Wednesday, March 5, 2014

A Busy Parent's Guide to Handling Sibling Rivalry

Sibling rivalry can be a cause for worry in some parents. However, it is a problem that can be corrected.

Part of preventing sibling rivalry involves understanding why it occurs in the first place.   A combination of different changes can result in jealousy and competitiveness among brothers and sisters.

On of the most common causes of sibling rivalry is the loss of attention that an only child receives when a new brother and sister is born. Another cause of competitiveness between brothers and sisters is the feeling that he or she is not the favored child-that one or both parents’ love one of the children more than the others.

Often siblings will try to become the favored child by competing for their parent’s attention in some way. This could happen in two ways-by good deeds committed or by bad deeds committed.

A child who does good most of the time will receive attention from his parents, and so will a child that does “bad” things most of the time. The reason a “good” child chooses to always strive for positive approval is because those children may only feel loved when a parent notices something good he or she has done.

The “bad” child does “bad” things for a similar reason, to receive the love and attention from a parent that often accompanies discipline. (Negative attention to this child often seems better than no attention at all, which is often the reason why certain children will act out.)

Another aspect of sibling rivalry is for one child to find a way to get the other child in trouble. This may be accomplished when a jealous child decides to “tattle” on the other in the event that other child has done something that is considered wrong in one or both of the parent’s eyes.

Some children will even make up lies about a brother or sister, especially if the favored child who can “do no wrong” in a parents eyes will believe the lies told.  This is true in a case when parents do not discipline fairly in a household.

Sibling rivalry can be seen as a negative aspect of growing up, or it can be seen as a positive aspect of growing up. Some view it as the first step towards two children learning how to resolve conflict. Parents can step in and help siblings learn how to “fight fairly”.

At a certain age, it is recommended to not intervene in every single little “battle” that your children may have.  It is important to let them learn to work out conflicts on their own. If you allow them to develop healthy conflict-resolution styles chances are they will develop mature friendships and relationships when they are older.

On the other hand, you do not want to allow your children to abuse one another by hitting one another or calling names. However, you want to encourage them to learn how to get along and to forgive one another when hurt has been caused.

One thing you can do as a parent to decrease the likelihood that your children will hate one another is to love them for who they are as individuals. Although you cannot always treat each child the same, you can try to be as fair as possible when enforcing rules, applying discipline, and allowing certain freedoms.

Also, it is important that you as a parent avoid comparing one child to another. For instance, it is best to not make statements to your children such as “why can’t you be more like your sister (or brother)?”

In the long wrong this can damage a child’s self-esteem.  Do your best to encourage all of your children to develop into the unique beings that they are.

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