Say what you will about Kim Kardashian-West, but being in such a complicated and famous family, her saying that having siblings “is like having built-in friends” is something you wouldn’t necessarily expect. In most cases, sibling rivalry is often outgrown, but the Kardashians seem to still carry old wounds, don’t they? That’s the thing about sibling rivalry–you have enemies that you can’t live without. Since we are most certainly not as famous as that TV family, raising children that are at each other’s throats do not get us a top-paying television series. If your kids see growing up as a race they have to win against each other, what can you as the parent overseer, do? It’s pretty simple: watch your words. While words give us the means we need to express ourselves, they also have the power to inflict self-doubt and jealousy, especially onto our kids. Here are some things you should try to avoid saying when dealing with sibling rivalry.
Anger is a totally valid human emotion, so why should kids not be allowed to feel it? Telling your child that being angry is wrong is what’s wrong with the picture. That’s precisely why the line “If you’re angry and you know it, stomp your feet” is in the children’s song! Allow them to feel it, acknowledge it, and say that no matter how angry they might be at each other, hitting their sibling or cursing them or thinking bad of each other does not have to be the way.
Most likely, one (or both) of the erring parties will approach you to tell on the other. If you didn’t witness the cause of the fight, don’t overreact or act on impulse. Don’t ignore or dismiss it either. Tossing the ball to your husband or wife will make your children think that you don’t care, and/or they can easily go to either one of you, so they can have a parent on their side. This will just foster more issues down the line.
Siblings often have misunderstandings over the concept of sharing. Adults seem to expect that sharing should come naturally, but it seems that we might be expecting too much of them when they’re still too little. Keep encouraging them to share, but accept the fact that kids are territorial and must learn how to choose to share when they’re ready too.
Being compared to a presumably better sibling allows a rot to grow in your kids’ heart. Comparing him will lead him to think that he is less, and will either accept it or rebel against it. Tell them that they are all unique and are their own person. Instead of telling them what they did wrong compared to their sibling, use suggestive inspiration by saying that their sibling eventually learned how to deal with certain things, and in time, so will they.
Being a parent to squabbling siblings is the same as being a referee, but don’t get in between both right away. Speak separately to them and get both sides of the story, then have them sit down together and talk it out. Have a bull session, if need be, as long as they communicate their feelings with one another without getting too physical or hurtful.
Their issues might seem petty to us adults, but when you’re a kid and your older brother just doesn’t seem to care about your feelings, it could seriously cause a dent in their dynamic. Reassure your children that beneath all the fights, they truly love each other, even if they may not see it clearly yet.
Toddlers really need parents to step in and mediate, but as children grow older, they have already developed the necessary skills to resolve issues on their own. If they want to despise each other just for a few hours, let them. Eventually, they will run into each other on the way to dinner, and things will fall into place. Treat them as adults and they might just see each other in a different light too.
Real talk: Parents almost always have favorites amongst their children. You know it, and most likely, they can feel it. You may not be able to control how you show preference by your actions, but never say it out loud, and never use it as a weapon against your other child. No matter what you do, sibling rivalry will not go away, but do not be the hand that feeds that monster.