Children are the centre of the universe in their parent’s life. Every decision made has an impact on the child. The child is aware of the privileged status and enjoys undivided attention of parents. This changes when another child is born.
What is it?
Siblings can be both best friends and worst enemies. Based on the situation, there can be love or hate but they cannot ignore each other’s presence in life. It is common to have a fight with siblings and then make up with each other. While it can be frustrating to see the kids fight over trivial matters, it should not be a reason to lose sanity. Nevertheless, one can reduce the frequency of fights and promote peace at home.
Why do kids fight?
Sibling rivalry starts soon after the second child comes and continue all through the growing years. Kids compete for everything from a parent’s attention to toys, anything that is shared could be a potential area of conflict. In a way, it is healthy as they learn to compete, share and reach compromises. These qualities can help in dealing with relationships later in life. Reasons for a fight could be–
Being the firstborn, the toddler is used to getting undivided attention. Now they have to share it with another child who is capable of doing nothing and is completely dependent. It can make the child feel neglected as this new entry in the family gets all the attention. During growth, the jealousy can flare up when one has to share toys, room, bed, clothes etc.
It is very common for parents, family friends and relatives to make comments and draw comparisons between siblings. It could be a comparison based on the physical appearance or temperament, nature, communication, mannerism, hobbies, eating habits, skills etc. This could make them feel lesser compared to the sibling and can be a cause of long lasting rivalry.
Every child is unique and will have a different temperament. The mood, disposition, adaptability etc will form a part of their individual personality. It will play important role in how they will get along with others. Some kids are introverted and may not be bothered by sibling the taking up attention while others may require extra love, care and attention. The conflicting personalities may because of resentment. The same personality traits can be a reason of conflict as both kids will want a same amount of attention.
Special need/unwell child
Sometimes, a child could have special needs because of ill health, slow learning, emotional needs or physical disability. This will need the parent to dedicate more time to them and may be a reason for the other child to be jealous of the sibling.
In most families, the younger child will inherit things used by older sibling making them jealous of being unable to get new things. Similarly, the older sibling may have a special attachment to the belongings and not be ready to share them. During growth, there is development of a sense of individuality and each may resent taking care of the sibling or sharing household responsibility.
The kids will learn from their parent. Ensure setting the right examples; if the parents resolve conflicts in a respectful way, children will learn the same.
What to do when kids fight?
Whether like it or not, fighting will always be a part of every parent’s life. The way of dealing with the situation will form the foundation of the relationship. Setting rules from day 1 will ensure household peace for a long time. So will teaching the kids to compromise, negotiate, control the anger, understand the perspective of others and finally let go and start afresh.
9 best tips to deal with sibling rivalry
- Do not get involved in every small conflict. Let the child try to resolve before stepping in. It will only increase the dependence on the parent to solve all the problems in life.
- Physical harm should be a strict no. Any situation should not reach to violence.
- Monitor the language used and ensure that there is no name-calling or abusive usage of words. If you hear any inappropriate language, find out the source from where the kids have learnt it and make them understand why it should not be spoken.
- Do not take sides or show favouritism, be fair and hear both sides of the story. Involve kids in resolution rather than solving issues for them.
- Separate the kids until they calm down. At times just keeping them away from each other will give them time to reflect.
- Do not focus on figuring out who is responsible for the fight. Both are responsible as it takes two to fight.
- Do not compare kids based on their skill levels, eating habits, educational performance etc. Each child is unique and has different talents and traits. Comparisons can only lead to rivalry.
- Share the time with each kid and give undivided individual attention to each of them for some time every day.
- Do not use violence to stop the argument. It will only make violence a tool used to end conflicts at some point in life.
How to help kids to get along?
- If kids have varied interests, make time for the needs of both.
- Allow them to share their time with friends as well as siblings. Make sure that they spend quality time together.
- Have fun time with the whole family. Plan outings, vacations, movies, picnics and let them bond with each other.
- Allow them to solve the conflicts and get involved only when needed.
- Make a schedule for things that they would have to share.
In some families, the conflict between siblings is so severe that it disrupts daily functioning or particularly affects kids emotionally or psychologically. In those cases, professional help is needed. Seek help if–
- Severe fight leads to marital problems
- Creates a real danger of physical harm to any member
- Damaging to the self-esteem or psychological well-being of any member
- May be related to other significant concerns like depression
Sibling rivalry is an inevitable part of growing up with kids having siblings. The job of the parent is to manage the conflict to a level where it can be turned into an opportunity for the children to grow as individuals.
- sibling rivalry (for parents) – nemours kidshealth
- as a parent how to deal with sibling rivalry (firstcry.com)