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"

 Sibling rivalry or

jealousy is a fact of

life. No matter

 how well
behaved your
children are, they
will occasionally
fight and argue

"

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

"

Be as fair as

possible at all

times.

Acknowledge
their strengths as
well as their
areas for
improvement
without making
comparisons with
each other, or
anyone, for that
matter

"

 

Bill Cosby once said, “You aren’t really a parent until you’ve had your second child.” Parents of one child will not really understand this. Parents of two or more children will relate to this statement immediately. Cosby was referring to the seemingly constant bickering and fighting between brothers and sisters.

Help! My Child is Jealous of His New Sister!

ibling rivalry is totally normal. More often than not, it springs from children’s desire for the exclusive love of their parents and peer competition, but left unchecked, it can harm a child’s self-image. Parents may actually reinforce conflict if they fail to establish limits and/or rules on fighting. However, parents need not worry, most siblings overcome these feelings and share a fantastic relationship throughout their lives. Following are some of the ways in which parents can prepare their child for a new arrival in the family:

When the family is expecting a new baby, the parents should talk to their older children explaining how important the older child’s help is going to be in caring for their new baby brother or sister. The parents should also discuss the children’s considerable responsibilities as older brothers or sisters.

Parents should never demonstrate a special preference for one of their children. Giving preferential treatment to either one of their children is one of the most toxic attitudes that parents can have with respect to their families. There cannot be any good reason for parents to encourage their children’s feelings of rivalry by confirming such suspicions. Children naturally feel competitive, and often, jealous of each other. Some may even be convinced that they are receiving less attention and/or love from mom and dad. For this reason, parents should do their best to avoid labelling or comparing. “Sima is much more hard-headed than Jiten.” Or “Jiten is doing better in reading than Sima.” This will only foster their competition and jealousy.

Parents need to plan and carry out frequent “family activities” with all of their children. During these, parents should try to avoid games and contests in which one of the children “wins” and the others “lose”. They should instead look for activities and pastimes in which they all “win” if they cooperate with one another.

Above all, parents need to spend time with each one of their children. Parents need to take the time to play an active part in the shaping of their children’s minds, to share life experiences with them, and to become a friend to them.

Only get involved in your children’s disputes if there is a danger of physical harm. Even then, encourage your children to resolve the crisis themselves. If you intervene, try to resolve problems with your children, not for them. Don’t put too much focus on figuring out which child is to blame for your children’s quarrels. It takes two to fight — anyone who is involved is partly responsible.

If your children frequently squabble over the same items (such as TV or video games) post a schedule showing which child “owns” that item at what times during the week.

If fights between your school-age children are frequent, have weekly family meetings in which you repeat your family’s rules about fighting and name-calling and review them. Family meetings, once a thing you saw only on old sitcoms, where each person speaks their mind respectfully, are a great solution to this problem of sibling rivalry. Agree as a group on things that each member of the family can do, or not do as the case may be, to improve sibling relations.

When parents see the older children are feeling left out and unappreciated, there are ways to mend the problem. One way is to take outings with the older children leaving the little ones at home. The parents can structure the outings so that the older youngsters have “one-on-one” time with first one parent and then the other. During these outings, the parents say pleasant things to the older children such as, “You are so grown-up! It is a big help to Mom and Dad.” Then you can reinforce the older children’s importance by saying, “Let’s get some food for the baby, what do you think the baby would like to eat? You choose some food.” Give the older children a sense of importance about the role they play in the nurturing of the baby.

When people compliment the baby, look for ways to point out something nice about the older children. For example, a doting aunt walks in and says, “Oh, the baby is so beautiful!” The parents can say, “Now we have two beautiful children instead of just one.” After the statement, give the older child a hug, or a smile and a wink.

If you feel all your best efforts have failed, warn your children that if the constant fighting continues, they will lose privileges. You must be careful not to be too harsh, and above all, be fair to both siblings. If a child feels unfairly punished, or feels their sibling is favoured over themselves, they won’t change their behaviour. They also won’t direct their anger and frustration towards you, they’ll feel that to do so would risk losing your love and approval. Instead, they will direct their frustration and anger towards their sibling, exacerbating the conflict.

Allow your children their own “time and space”, daily if possible. Make this an agreed upon time that no one can bug them unless it’s absolutely necessary. Expecting children to play together all the time will drive everyone crazy. Take the time to recognise your children when they are behaving well and getting along. Encourage their cooperative behaviour by telling them how proud and grateful you are that they are working well together. Praise is the most effective way to get your children to want to repeat their good behaviour.

Always keep in mind that being a parent is anything but easy, and often requires creativity that you can’t find in any book or article. But it is also important to remember that being a child isn’t terribly easy either … add to that having to deal with and share your world with another child, and the difficulties are multiplied. Which is why the issue of sibling rivalry must be tackled as a family … together, which is the only way anything can be overcome.

Aditi Vaze
The writer is a Clinical Psychologist with

E-mail: growthteam@rediffmail.com.

 

Do’s and Don’ts

DO NOT REACT AT ALL
Expect your children to treat each other respectfully, if you allow them to name-call, insult, or make personal attacks, they will assume you accept their behaviour. With your help, as an impartial referee, try to get them to sit down and work out their differences. Explain to them the emotions that are involved in the situation. “Susie feels sad right now because she feels left out.” Or “Josh wants to be left alone for a while, for some quiet time.” Encourage your children to come up with a solution each can live with. Perhaps a compromise like having Susie agree to give Josh an hour of alone time, and then Josh will allow her to come in and play with him for a while.

Some of the myths associated with sibling rivalry are “Parents should let the kids solve things, and not get involved.” Or “They will outgrow it.” “It’s not harmful to just let them argue and fight.” Nothing could be further from the truth! Parents should get involved, but not in every little spat. Listen close enough to make sure things don’t get out of hand, and enforce house rules at all times! For example, no name-calling, no hitting, no insults, etc.

Separate your children until they are calm, and instruct them to return with at least one idea about how their conflict could have been avoided or resolved.