Sibling rivalry can tear a family apart; or as in the case of Eli and Peyton Manning, it can pull a family together and produce some extraordinary results. It is all a matter of how parents handle things. If you are concerned about the rivalry between your kids, here are some suggestions to use that power for good.
- Get your kids involved in sports – A sport can be a great outlet for energy and give each child a chance to excel in his or her preferred field. Since most siblings will be different ages they most likely will not be competing head to head. This will give them each an opportunity to support and cheer on one another.
- Give equal play to your kids – Without intending to, some parents show favoritism between kids making rivalry worse. If your son is in Boy Scouts and your daughter is in Girl Scouts be sure to support each child equally. Oftentimes, Girl Scouts get back seat rating to their Boy Scout brothers, both in activities and financial support of the program. When your daughter goes after her Gold Award, you will be just as proud of her as you are of your Eagle Scout. Whatever activities your kids choose, be sure to support them equally with your time and resources – even if it’s not your favorite thing to do.
- Encourage friendly competition – Sometimes kids will compete academically which can be a good thing as long as parents support the kids no matter what their test scores are. Teach your kids how to encourage each other as they compete and this will help the competition stay on friendly ground.
- Teach acceptable methods of handling conflict – Kids are going to get into conflicts with one another whether or not they are in competition on the playing field or in academics. Teaching them how to handle conflict in a positive and proactive manner will help them develop an important life skill.
- Praise effort over success – Of course you want your kids to be successful in everything good they do, however, when it comes to certain things, too much praise over success can be detrimental to one child over the other. Learning to give praise to a child for a valiant effort is priceless when it comes to rivalry between kids. The kid coming in second is most likely trying harder than the one who comes in first and those efforts need to be acknowledged by all, even the more successful sibling.
- Help each child find their niche – In one family, two boys were constantly at each other’s throats growing up; as they got older one joined the wrestling team while the other joined the debate team. Both became extremely successful in their activities and they learned to support one another. Finding what your kids are good at and giving them the support they need to do their best will help turn rivalry into a positive.
- Stress teamwork – There are things that can happen within the family that will foster teamwork between siblings. Teach the kids to work together and point out how things get done better and faster when everyone is pulling together. Engage in activities that are non-competitive and require cooperation.
- Teach empathy – Getting kids to empathize with one another is something that is taught. It takes time to stop and talk with your kids about their feelings and come to a place of understanding what empathy is about. However, it is worth the effort.
- Start early – Having more than one child will most likely lead to sibling rivalry at some point, so if you head it off early, you may have a better chance of that rivalry being more of a positive than a negative experience. When a new baby is due, older siblings can be very helpful as they assume the position of big brother or big sister. Begin talking about the responsibilities of being the older sibling in terms of being a good example showing compassion, being helpful, etc. Continue these talks as the kids grow and model the behaviors you wish your children to emulate. You may find that your kids end up helping each other more than bashing each other.
- Use humor – Many times using humor appropriately to deal with circumstances is all that’s needed to turn a bad situation around. Never use humor to embarrass or humiliate or call attention to a short coming, however.
Sibling rivalry is something that can have a positive side, if dealt with properly. It may seem like an uphill battle, but many larger families have found that when they started early in the game to foster sibling unity, that’s pretty much the result they got. Other families came late to the game, but using positive techniques, they too were able to turn fighting into friendship – maybe not all the time, but certainly a good deal of the time.
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