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5 Ways to Stop Sibling Rivalry

December 20, 2015 | by Adina Soclof, MS. CCC-SLP

Practical tips on how to make sure all your children feel equally loved.

Children who feel that their parents love their siblings more than them will often act out to gain attention. They also feel inadequate and will engage in overt or covert competitions with their siblings.

These feelings of incompetence can persist into adulthood making it difficult for them to enjoy life. This can affect not only their relationships with their siblings but with their spouses, their friends and their neighbors. They will always be looking to see who has it better than them.

Here are 5 ways we can make sure all our children feel equally loved.

1. Each child is special in some way:

When we are gifted with a child we have been entrusted with a unique soul. We are charged to find ways to cultivate that child’s talents and strengths. We also need to find ways to love each child and value their uniqueness.

The best way to do this is to really think about what that specific child loves to do, what brings that child joy. It could be reading, sports, a fascination with animals and nature. You also want to think about the ways that child brings you joy. Whether it’s their laughter, sense of fun, kindness, high energy or even their mischievousness, there is always something to appreciate in our children.

Training ourselves to appreciate each child for who they are can help us identify with each of our children and avoid favoring one child over the other.

2. Don’t compare:

It can be hard not to compare our children. It could just be in our minds: I wish Max was more of a people person, like Danny…

When we are angry we might say it out loud: You never help! Your brother comes to help right away as soon as he sees me carrying heavy packages!”

We may even do it to praise one child to make them feel better about them selves, “You are so much better at math than Shana…”

We might do it as a way to motivate our children: “Look, Sara is riding her bike and she is younger than you! You can do it!”

Whatever the reason, we want to avoid any type of comparisons, whether in our thoughts or verbally. It is too hurtful. It is far to leave their sibling out of the picture:

We can appreciate our child for who they are: “Max has such a quiet, sweet nature.”

We can ask for help when we need it: “Eli, I need your help now to carry the packages.”

We can praise: “You really seem to enjoy math, working with numbers and puzzles. It seems to be a strength of yours.”

We can encourage: “Soon, you will be able to ride your bike. Everyone is different and takes their own time to learn new things.”

3. Avoid Competitions:

Many times parents will innocently pit one child against the other: “Let’s see who can get dressed first!” “Let’s race! Last one into the bath is a rotten egg!”

It’s best if we avoid that altogether and say: “We have 10 minutes left to get dressed! Let’s see if we can beat that time together!” “It would be so funny if we all ran to the bath in slow motion! Let’s go!”

4. They don't have to share:

It’s best if we don't force our kids to share. It is hard to share your stuff; everyone has something that they hold dear. I do not share my work computer with anyone, another person might have an expensive camera that’s off limits. Children should be allowed to have that special something that is just theirs alone.

When they do need to share, we want to acknowledge that it can be difficult: “New toys can be hard to share. The Wii is a family toy. We will figure out how to share it.”

Most kids do find ways to share their toys (especially if they are not forced to.) When they do fight over a toy, instead of saying:

“When will you ever learn to share?” or “You never share your toys!” we want to be encouraging: “You know how to share, I have seen you share” “You know how to come up with solutions and work together when there is a toy you both want to play with”

5. God chose you to be their parent:

When we have a child who might be more difficult than others it is helpful to remember that you were chosen to be their parent; you are the best person to raise them.

When I had my first child, my Great Aunt Celie told me that when her children were little, she would tell them the following at bedtime, “When you were ready to be born God started looking for the right house for you to live in. He looked at the Weiss family, but He said, ‘No that is not the right place for this baby.’ He looked at the Cohen family, and He said, ‘No that is not the right family for this baby.’ He then looked at the Jones, and said. ‘No, that’s not the right family for this baby.’ Then he looked at our house and He saw me and your Dad and He knew that was the right family for this baby. That is how we got you. You were just perfect for our family. I am so happy that we got you!”

This helped me understand my deeper role as a parent. I adopted that story and have told that it to my children. It is also another wonderful way to let your child know how much you value them for themselves and how you view them as a gift from God, separate from their siblings.

Sibling rivalry can be tough. As parents, we want to make sure that we don't add to the conflict in any way. Understand their uniqueness, avoid comparisons and competitions, and be positive and understanding about sharing.


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