Sibling Rivalry is one of the most common issues parents have yet many do not see what is really happening
Children fighting – help them get along
If all behaviour has a reason, get into the mind of your children to see how they are feeling and what they are thinking. Children also ‘spill the beans’ and tell you; but so often we fail to listen. They may have said:
‘You always blame me; you never blame him; you love him more than me; it’s unfair!’
If we take a moment and slip on this child’s shoes, we may see that it is unfair, that we do take sides and compare ‘Why can’t you be like your brother!’. Yet, an act of comparison is an act of rejection and simply fuels more bad behaviour, as this child is feeling ‘I’m bold, not good enough” and ‘they don’t love me like they love him’. Does the challenging child feel left out, feel a little less seen in the family? Do they feel discouraged from a negative spiral of criticism?
You cannot change them, but changing your interaction, everything changes.
They needs your love the most, when they deserve it the least!
Resolving Sibling Rivalry
- Do not punish as it can make things worse
- Catch the discouraged child being good, and temporarily ignore the bad behaviour
- Meet the need that is causing the behaviour; offer 1:1 time (8 minutes a day)
- Intervene and lend a helping hand when conflict starting by redirecting
- Never take sides; come down to their eye level, use their name, make eye contact and say ‘You both want to play with the toy, now how can you sort this out so you are both happy? I will pop the toy on the fridge and give you a few minutes to figure something out, you were playing so nicely together, I know you can think of something’
- Staying close by and guiding and directing their behaviour really makes a difference in warding off potential conflicts
- Toddlers don’t need punishment for hitting etc, say ‘Stop, brothers are for loving not for hitting’ and gently bring their hand down
Instead of Time Out, give Time Into the feeling that underlies the behaviour
Therefore, go over to the discouraged child and be Kind, Firm but not Cross. Soothe them and try to figure out what the problem is. Are you being critical and favouring the other child? My experience was this:
Time Out’s – Punishments- Consequences reinforces a child having poor feelings about themselves
When I changed my interaction, the child changed. The more I ‘met the unmet need’ which is usually for time from the parent and positive attention, the more the child blossomed! Therefore, I found it helpful to Separate the Child from the Behaviour and instead of a criticism say:
‘I love you, but that behaviour is not okay. We can sort it out; when you calm down. I cannot talk to you until you calm down’
Acknowledge the Feeling (that is under the Behaviour)
Later on when everyone is calm take the opportunity to speak with the child. Acknowledging their feeling can be helpful. How do they feel? Maybe there is a toddler getting a lot of attention? Name their feeling for example:
‘It can be hard when he comes in and annoys you, you may feel he gets a lot of the attention. You may prefer the way it was when it was just you. When you feel like that, you can come and tell me and I will make time for you. However, I cannot allow you to hit him. You are such a good boy, but that behaviour is not okay’
This ensures the child feels understood and heard and gives him an alternative to hitting out to the younger sibling.
What is the intention of the behaviour – to get more attention?
Recently, a parent came to me for help and on the second visit said this:
‘It’s amazing how much a bit of positivity can achieve; I found the more positive attention I gave him, the less negative attention he sought’