Two or more children often first experience the world of “I’m not the only one in the world?” through a sibling. Children often vie for parents’ love and attention, so to help ease the realization that others count, too:

First and foremost, do not play favorites

consciously pay attention to each child;

spend separate, quality time with each child;

protect each child equally and don’t always “rescue” a younger child from an older sibling (so don’t let the younger child take the older child’s toys); and

lose the labels – the smart one, the easy one, the athletic one or the wild child – focus on positive attributes, such teamwork or kindness, so siblings can begin to help each other instead of competing for their parents’ approval.

Give each child a toy or possession that they don’t have to share;

listen and celebrate each child’s differences:  let each know they are special in their own way;

do not dismiss or suppress your children’s resentment or angry feelings;

whenever possible, let siblings settle their own differences.

Dealing with Sibling Rivalry

All family members need to work together:  parents and children and any others who live in the home and have a stake in decisions affecting the daily life of the family should take part.  To make your family meetings successful, establish some general rules, for example:

  • Everyone gets a chance to talk
  • One person talks at a time and does not get interrupted
  • Okay to say what you feel
  • No one has to talk
  • Everyone has to listen
  • No one puts anyone else down

Develop a plan for evenly distributing coveted privileges.

  • Who gets to ride “shotgun” in the car? (It’s amazing how many teenagers and young adult siblings still make this an important issue.)
  • Who gets to push the button in the elevator?
  • Who gets to choose where to go to eat lunch or dinner?
  • Who gets to choose the television show?
  • Who does what chores (age appropriate) weekly or monthly? Etc.

More importantly, sibling rivalry is an ever-evolving process.  Being proactive with some of these parenting techniques can give your children resources that will serve them later in life.

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