(3 minute read time.)
Take two kids in competition for their parents’ love and attention. Add to that the envy that one child feels for the accomplishments of the other; the resentment that each child feels for the privileges of the other; the personal frustrations that they don’t dare let out on anyone else but a brother or sister, and it’s not hard to understand why in families across the land, the sibling relationship contains enough emotional dynamite to set off rounds of daily explosions.
Sibling Rivalry…..Uggh, it’s one of the things that most parents struggle with knowing how to handle and one of the things that often causes us to reach the end of our tether, no matter how hard we try and stay calm.
Much of today’s popular advice about Parenting still ignores emotion. Yet emotion is what fuels all behaviours, including sibling rivalry and spats and it’s emotion that fuels our responses too.
The ultimate goal of raising children should not be simply to have an obedient, compliant child, but one where we as parents can empower them to problem solve and internally regulate their own emotions from a young age.
Therefore the secret lies in:
- Your perspective: how you perceive why siblings argue. If you can see it as a process and a natural part of their development, a practice ground if you like, of your children testing the waters of interacting and managing relationships, then you can encourage and empower them to learn problem solving techniques and the skill of co-operation. But also to see all behaviours as a communication of a need. There will be a positive intention behind the poor behaviour always.
- How you manage the situation and react. Do you use discipline for learning opportunities and teaching values, or for punishment?
What are The Weller Way’s top tips?
- Allow your children to have differences: Only step in if it gets out of hand and they are not able to sort it out themselves
- Hitting, kicking, pushing etc is the result of a child having exhausted all the options of having his needs met. Because he doesn’t have the necessary brain development to control his feelings or think of ways to solve a problem, we can step in to help, but first:
- Consider your attitude to conflict. Do you find it difficult and always want to shut it down?
- Their argument is not your argument, therefore Don’t take sides: Make observations and describe what you see happening without judgement. This acknowledges each child’s perspective. Ask questions, rather than telling them to “STOP THAT”. Ask if they can come up with a solution, before you suggest one.
- With older children, we can ask |”why do you think I am concerned about what I am seeing?”
- Identify the need…”name it to tame it”. Is it a need to protect something they are working on? Is it fuelled by wanting a sense of ownership? Or is it hunger, tiredness, frustration etc?? Understanding the need does not mean you agree with their behaviour.
- Put the limit on the behaviour, not the need. A limit should be something you want them to learn, and must be something that you can carry out consistently. Limits tie into family values: e.g We don’t hit each other because we love and respect each other. This builds awareness of the WHY certain behaviors are wrong.
- Don’t use guilt i.e “What is wrong with you”, or “I am so disappointed in you” or “why can’t you behave like your brother”.
- Don’t use a withdrawal of 1:1 time as a consequence, as this will have a negative effect on self esteem. Remember the behaviour is not the person.
- Work on your own mindset and internal state. If we yell , they will yell more. It is better to remove yourself for a moment to breathe and count to 10, before tackling the situation in anger and frustration.
- Try games that build teamwork and boost sibling co-operation.
- Offer 1:1 un-interrupted consistent attention to each child where you can slot it into your routine and which feels natural.
- Highlight and praise the uniqueness of each child using statements like: “I love it when you…..”
From their struggles to establish dominance over each other, siblings become tougher and more resilient. From their endless rough-housing with each other, they develop speed and agility. From their verbal sparring they learn the difference between being clever and being hurtful. From the normal irritations of living together, they learn how to assert themselves, defend themselves, compromise. And sometimes, from their envy of each other’s special abilities they become inspired to work harder, persist and achieve.