Sibling rivalry can occur at any age. Competitiveness, jealousy, and insecurity go hand in hand with basic human needs such as affection, attention, and love. Because family happiness is at stake, parents can and should diffuse these tensions for the benefit of the siblings involved as well as the family as a unit.
There are certain things we must perceive, encourage, and avoid when taking (preventative) measures at nipping this type of family conflict in the bud.
If you have ever watched a child attempt a task (dancing, singing, swimming, doing his homework, etc.), you have surely noticed that he puts forth more effort if you observe as he “performs.”
Children constantly seek our approval in many ways, and we can meet their needs by simply taking interest in their interests. When your child wants your eyes on him, whether that be at a play recital or in the backyard, remember that you can help him become an independent and self-assured adult.
If both children are vying for attention at once, explain to them that you prefer to watch each individually first. A strategy might be to take the idle child on your lap while you oversee the active one. This way, both children receive your positive feedback, even if that implies only a smile.
Make a day of it!
Children cherish family time, those moments when they feel that they are the only thing on this earth that matters to you. While it is vital to give each child one-on-one time with each parent, it is also crucial to plan group outings where siblings can interact in a supervised environment with you in charge.
These types of planned events maximize sharing and fairness and minimize negative sentiments toward parents and siblings alike. Just remember that a child does not have to visit Disneyland to experience a parent’s love, as baking cookies together, a swing in the park, or even a book read at bedtime are great bonding opportunities.
Never play favorites
Children are smart and more aware than we realize, which causes us to underestimate their ability to sense. Sibling rivalry can arise from subtle behaviors from parents. While no parent is capable of being 100% equal with their kids all the time, an effort goes a long way. When you praise one child, find a way to commend the other, too.
Also, instead of comparing siblings in contrastive ways, try to emphasize their positive commonalities, since emotionally balanced children are a big part of family harmony. Although sibling rivalry, by definition, would seem to come within the sibling relationship itself, it is important to understand that parents may be the root of the problem.
Children see parents in a relational way that ties into their own happiness or dissatisfaction. For this reason, just as in almost any parent/child context, parents are responsible for ensuring the welfare of each child in their family.
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