No matter how fair you try to be or how much attention you give to each child, sibling rivalries often develop. Differences in age, relationship dynamics, and other factors beyond your control all influence these rivalries. Parents and caretakers have a few ways to help ease sibling rivalries, but they take time and patience.
Not everyone has the freedom to choose when to have children. However, if you happen to be in a position where you can space your children out, research suggests you aim for about three years between each kid. Your older child starts becoming more independent around this age, allowing you to spend more time caring for a new addition to your family.
Research shows that a larger age difference leads to less conflict, but a smaller gap results in a closer relationship, so three years tends to be a good compromise. Caretakers also benefit financially by being able to reuse supplies and clothes.
With multiple children in the house, it can be extremely difficult to juggle other responsibilities with keeping them out of trouble. However, parents need to do their best to stay on top of what their kids are doing. If a situation appears to be escalating, step in.
When stopping these sibling fights, try to focus on self-reflection and teaching children how they individually contributed to the fight. By staying calm, aware, and in control, your kids will naturally learn to follow by example.
While competition can be healthy in some situations, it should not be the natural state between siblings. Do not compare children or favor one over the others. Avoiding favoritism may seem easy in theory, but it takes much more work in practice, especially as one child goes through a difficult stage the other has moved out of.
Try to create opportunities for cooperation, such as sharing toys or having the children work together on simple chores. Cooperate with other adults and limit loud fights or behaviors whenever possible to provide a positive framework for your children.
In the pursuit of equality and cooperation parents sometimes forget that no two children are the same. Learn to appreciate and celebrate each child as an individual. One child may enjoy sitting inside and reading while another prefers to head outside and be active.
Rather than always trying to force each child to do something the other likes, find opportunities to spend time with them individually and instead encourage time spent together on things they both enjoy.
Children often feel as though they have very little input or control when a new sibling joins the family. Take the time to explain to your child what is happening and allow them to learn what this new child needs. Doing so will help foster a positive relationship between siblings from the beginning because the older child is less likely to feel like a “stranger” has taken away all of your attention.
Some people may find it strange, but forcing your children to share toys is not always the best approach. Teaching a child to share is important, but children are people, too, and they need things that belong only to them.
This can become an issue if a child really wants to play with their sibling’s toy, but do your best to defuse the situation and teach your offspring how to wait patiently. Forcing a child to share constantly can lead to the idea that sharing feels bad. It also gives the sibling more power in the future.
At some point, one of your children will likely feel that you are being unfair and prioritizing their sibling. Whether this is true or not is largely unimportant; what matters is your child’s feelings.
Let children express their feelings and listen with empathy. Together, you can find ways to validate their feelings and promote a positive relationship going forward.
Holidays are a stressful period at the best of times. Birthdays and other gift-giving holidays are especially taxing on sibling relationships. One child’s birthday can cause the other child to feel left out and gift comparisons are impossible to avoid.
Make a plan and come up with some rules ahead of time to prevent any possible issues. Children should learn that one person’s special day does not mean you love that one more.
Even if the relationship is generally as healthy and positive as possible, siblings will fight. While punishments may be necessary for some situations, aim for positive reinforcement whenever possible.
Praise or reward them for working together to overcome an obstacle or for resolving a conflict on their own. This does not need to be a grand gesture, but it should be consistent.
Healthy communication is a massive factor in fostering positive relationships. In moments of calm, stress the importance of certain social skills. Teaching children appropriate ways to ask their siblings to play and how to accept or decline those offers will limit hurt feelings and fights in the future.
A big part of this is empathy. If a child can learn to see things from their siblings' perspective, they are less likely to escalate the situation.