Sibling rivalry: 10 practical methods to get rid of it!

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Kids walking together holding hands
Tried and tested methods to control sibling rivalry in the family.

Sibling rivalry is universal, inevitable and maddening.

Even when I write this, I can vouch for the fact that I am as vulnerable as you to sibling rivalry, and its a daily struggle for me to keep the tempers down in the house. Parenting is tough!

Imagine yourself driving home after a long and tiring day at work, with the kids picked up from school and strapped in their seats at the back of your car. All of a sudden you hear loud wails, screams for help and there is total mayhem in the car. You can see them almost in a scuffle, one pulling at the other’s hair, for no reason at all!!

What do you do? Shout at them to shut up? Stop the car and give them a good glare? Keep driving as if you are deaf?

This is sibling rivalry. The ultimate test of your temperament.

Wait! Here’s a BIG fact: most siblings do grow up to be the bestest of friends. Just like a baby learning to walk has to fall multiple times to master the art of walking, the sibling relationship has to go through all of its ups and downs before it grows into a strong bond. Its soooo good to know that “this too will pass”.

As parents, we are often caught unawares in sudden outbursts of energy and competition, and react impulsively in such situations. The pressures of adult life like our jobs, deadlines, bills, chores, finances… do catch up with us however much we try to stay calm. Kids yelling and fighting is surely the last thing we want to deal with. But sadly, its the most common thing we deal with. EACH. AND. EVERY. DAY.

Moving on to some parenting advice, I am going to give you a tried and tested (on my own kids) list of 10 ways in which you can actually foster sibling love, and reduce rivalry. You will surely notice a big change in the kids’ behaviour from day 1 of implementation of these methods.


Stay where you are

That’s right. Stay where you are. You don’t need to rush in every time you hear them yelling. Unless someone is physically injured, you really need not intervene.

Your kids should learn to sort out their disputes by themselves. If you intervene and settle matters every time, they are going to get used to someone else solving their problems for them. You don’t want that, right?

So the next time you hear those noises from their room, just take a deep breath and let them be. Remember, you want them to grow up into well rounded, independent individuals.

Thou shall not judge

Make it a point to not be judgemental or prejudiced towards one child. Usually older children get blamed for most of the tiffs, which can make them even more resentful and aggressive.

It is very difficult not to lean towards one side if the kids are more than 3 years apart in age, or if one has special needs; wherein all are NOT equal.

The crucial part is to make them understand that as parents, what we are doing is the RIGHT thing to do. It is extremely difficult for a child to understand why her sibling is being favoured most of the times.

Another point here is, we should never compare one child to another, in any matter. Comparison demotivates anyone, more so for a child trying to discover his/her own personality.

Be a role model

Children are sponges. They absorb everything they see, hear and feel. Your kids are miniature copies of you.

If your child sees you responding angrily in stressful situations, he/she will also imbibe that quality, getting the impression that anger can frighten others and hence, solve problems.

On the other hand, if you keep your calm and stay composed most of the times, if you tackle a problem without emotions getting the better of you, you are setting a great example and behavioral pattern for your child.

Even though we know this, we always tend to forget the fact that THE KIDS ARE WATCHING. Keep this in mind.

Encourage teamwork

Kids reading together.
Make your kids cooperate, not compete!

Kids love to form teams. This is the precise reason why they love team sports like football, baseball and basketball.

So now that you have this vital piece of information, you can use it to your advantage by letting them form a team and do the jobs you want to get done.

Pitch them against yourself : ask them to pick up the toys before you’re done with dishes. Or pitch them against the clock: tell them to pack their school bags in 15 minutes. Puzzles that they can solve by collective brainstorming are also a good idea.

You will watch in awe as they enjoy the game, playing as a team.

Family time

I cannot stress enough the importance of this part. We have to make time for kids. No, I don’t mean cooking for them or bathing them or changing diapers. Those are chores.

The family is the cradle of the society. A child raised in a warm family with lots and lots of conversations, hugs, kisses and love is a satisfied child, and not a frustrated child.

Quality family time means the time the family spends together, with each other. You can be in the same room ans still not be “with” the others in the room. Get what I mean? That’s right, I mean Facebook and Instagram and Whatsapp and Twitter.

Social media is the bane of the modern society. You have to have massive willpower to set your smartphone aside and make genuine conversation. Its very tempting to let the kids watch TV or play on a tab while you get your daily dose of social media updates.

Try to find time to get out of the mundane. Family activities like short trips, visits to other families, day-outs, fishing or dairy farm trips, or anything other than the ordinary can be refreshing for everybody. In short, go out and have some fun with the kids!

A family of parents and three kids jumping in the sand.
Outdoor family fun

Set ground rules

TLC (tender loving care) doesn’t work all the time, right?

So you do need to put down some rules, be strict about them, and see that they get followed.

Some rules I have laid down in my family are:

  1. No calling names.
  2. No hitting, no pushing, no biting.
  3. No throwing stuff around, no banging doors.
  4. If you call Momma, she is going to punish both equally (which means that if they are fighting for the TV remote, I just switch off the TV).
  5. Some things can be shared. Some not. So if something belongs to one and not the other, it automatically goes to the owner. No appeals.

Reward good behaviour

Make it a point to take notice of desirable behaviour and reward it. The child should know that the good behaviour is being noted as much, or more than the bad behaviour.

This is called positive reinforcement in child psychology. It means that we are reinforcing the positive things. If repeated for some time, it results in development and retention of desirable behavioral traits.

And rewards do not mean material rewards all the time. It could just be a hug, a word of praise, or permission to do something the kids like. But it should always be a reward, and NOT a bribe.

Individual attention

Every child is an individual. He/she needs individual attention.

It is well known that kids resort to making noise, banging things and fighting in order to attract attention. So just give them the attention that they need to prevent attention seeking behaviour, and you will observe a calmer atmosphere in the house.

We must devote a certain amount of time to each child in the family. Take time to listen to them, ask about their day, discuss their problems, touch them, pat them, hug them. Kids thrive on touch. Make them feel loved and wanted.

Let them play together

Now this is a sure backfire!

If you allow them to play together, they will surely start fighting, right?

Yes and no. They do end up fighting when they play, but they are also discovering each other. And as they begin to understand the personality of their siblings, they start getting along with each other more and more. In other words, sibling harmony takes the place of sibling rivalry.

  • Give them a lot of outdoor activities. I have personally noticed that most quarrels happen at home, or in the car!
  • At home, involve them in games like carroms, where they can play as a team.
  • If it is not a restriction in your family, allow them to bathe together. Bath-time is great fun, and can be pepped up with a variety of toys and accessories. In summers, you can even set up an inflatable pool in outdoors, for hours of fun and frolic.

Intervention strategies

Up to this point we have dealt with all the non interventional methods, right? But we do need to intervene sometimes. Here are some pointers towards how we should do it.

  • Compose yourself before you barge in.
  • Talk them out of it. Instead of trying to find someone to blame, try to talk with them and find out what the problem is. Ask them about how they think it can be resolved. Involve them in finding the solution. teach them to negotiate. You will soon see them working out solutions among themselves.
  • If someone is very agitated, take him/her out of the scene. Allow to calm down. Now you can start talking.
  • Some issues are so trivial that they are better forgotten. Just distract them.
  • Some issues are so serious that you will need a therapist to help you, and the child. Examples include: 1. constant physical harm to other siblings or to self 2. depression 3. psychologicall y putting down the other 4. Signs of genuine hatred.

Phew! That brings us to the end of this rather long post. All these tips work for me, so I am sure they will work for you too. And we can together wave good bye to sibling rivalry from our families.

I would like you to comment below about what you think of this post, and whether the methods mentioned helped you and your family.

Meanwhile, let us continue being the awesome superwomen we are!

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