What Causes Sibling Rivalry?
The cause of sibling rivalry is parents, often inadvertently, creating an environment of competition instead of teamwork. Of course, some kids are naturally more jealous, or fair-minded, or attention-seeking. Many personal characteristics can foster increased rivalry. But the truth is, how the parent handles those dynamics sets the tone for how they play out over time. If a parent reinforces a competitive spirit that is not also mirrored by a sense of team-work, then rivalry will have a stronger foothold than if a parent models a kind of healthy competition that recognizes the relative strengths and merits of all. A sense of “we’re in this together” can be respectfully competitive; a feeling that “it’s you or me” creates unhealthy rivalries. At the end of the day, the parent sets the tone.
Sibling Rivalry – Vying for Mommy’s Attention?
The real key reason why rivalry occurs between young toddler-aged siblings is they are vying for Mommy’s attention which symbolizes her love. Every child wants to believe he or she is front and center in the mind of Mommy (the important Other). Often, the jealousy and anger are especially prevalent in the older sibling because it was so tough to move over and give up (metaphorically) Mommy. There are a variety of ways we see sibling rivalry play out. Not sharing, grabbing toys, saying mean, rejecting things, hitting and other acts of aggression are all symptoms of rivalry. Also, toddlers have not yet mastered delayed gratification, respecting their peers’ needs/wishes, enhanced language skills, and frustration tolerance. These are all works in progress.
Sibling Rivalry Solutions – Smart Parenting
Once a parent recognizes this feeling of specialness toward one child, it is key to not show or communicate the favoritism. Better to try and understand why you feel this way. Sometimes, it’s the child who is less responsive to you who needs more of Mommy. Do your best to deliver the needs of each child. And, never, never compare your kids to each other or other children. It only demeans and makes your baby feel less valued.
Sibling Rivalry Solutions – for Children Under Four Years
When siblings are young (under age four years) it helps if parents have two of the same toys. For instance, if you have twin boy toddlers you may want to buy two red fire trucks. It is very hard for toddlers to share and take turns. They need lots of practice before they can be expected to master cooperative play. Another tip to parent is to learn the language of Narration.
The narration is talking out loud with your youngster about what she feels and wants at the moment. If she is grabbing her brother’s toy out of his hands, speak emphatically about how hard it is to wait your turn. Encourage her to tell you she’s mad/angry at her brother for holding the toy when she wants it. Teach your children that it’s okay to feel powerful feelings but we can’t hurt each other with our hands or our words. We can express strong anger and emotions without calling names or hitting.
Sibling Rivalry Solutions – for Toddlers
When the kids are toddlers, it’s fun to bake cookies together and eat them as a project that requires a team. When the children are older than four years, you can introduce them to a game I created called Detective where we go round, and each person gets a turn to ask a curious/inquiring question of someone else. For instance, Johnny can choose to ask sister what is her favorite color, toy, dessert, or friend. It is a game that facilitates getting to know the other person. It can be a bonding process. You can also talk with your family about the What if’s.
For example, what if you get hurt at school? Would you ask the nurse to call you brother out of class to help you while waiting for Mom to come? In other words, help stimulate your children’s thinking of their siblings as partners/helpers/alliances.
Sibling Rivalry Solutions – Supervising the Play Time
You should always supervise them, if your children are under the age of 4 years, even when playing in the playroom and you are in the kitchen cooking. Toddlers, or children under four years old years, are not yet expected to have mastered taking turns, sharing, delayed gratification, frustration tolerance, and full use of language skills to self-advocate. Conflicts may erupt at any moment. A warm, nurturing adult must constantly be available not to take sides, blame, or judge, but rather to mediate and help each child wait and listen without interrupting.
Once your kids are above age 4 or 5 years-old, depending on each child’s maturity level, you can leave them to play together while you are in another room in the house available to help settle disputes as they arise. We need to consider power differentials as well. If you have a two-year-old toddler and a six-year-old you need to evaluate whether they are ready for solo playing without your supervision. If your six-year-old has trouble with impulse control and could lash out and strike the three-year-old in anger, you cannot take that risk by leaving them to play unsupervised. The two-year-old is defenseless in this power differential.
Sibling Rivalry Solutions – One-on-One Special Time !
It helps minimize jealousy when Mommy designates and delivers one-on-one Special Time with each child solo. It can be for only 10-15 minutes each day. To maximize the benefits make sure you do Special Time each day at the same time. It should be an activity that is our pleasure for both Mommy and child. Each child must learn to tolerate and bear the discomfort of Mommy doing Special Time with brother.
Sibling Rivalry Solutions – Give Ample Attention to Each Child !
One dangerous pitfall that a some parents fall into is assigning the primary parental duties to a particular parent for each child. For instance, on some occasions I have seen Mom overwhelmed when her second child arrives, so she hands over the full and essential parenting of her firstborn to Daddy. That older sibling not only metaphorically loses his mother, but in fact, actually does lose her to the younger sibling. The older one now has a real reason to hate the younger child and the mother, too. Be sure to give ample attention to each child. They both need a mother and a father.
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