Children are naturally competitive and while sibling rivalry is undesirable, it is a normal part of growing up. Healthy rivalry can have positive effects of motivation and encouragement but when one child starts to bully or dominate the other, it becomes unhealthy.
How parents can stop sibling rivalry:
- Nurture a team spirit in the home as opposed to egoism. While it is important for children to assert their individuality and thrive in it, it is vital for them to understand how all these different parts are interconnected and interdependent to make a strong structure that will last forever. Encourage inclusive families. That way, children will not view each other as competitors or threats.
- Never compare or pit them against each other. Children do not possess the same strengths and abilities as each other. Do not make one feel inadequate because of another’s achievements. They are growing at parallels and are always at different life stages. Celebrate one’s good points without making reference to the other’s weaknesses and encourage the one that’s lagging behind without making reference to the other’s successes.
- Encourage them to help each other. Promote empathy by making your children see each other’s good qualities and how they can utilise these to complement each other. For example, one may be athletic and energetic, while the other may be intellectually gifted. One can help the other with sports or exercise, while the other helps with homework and studies. There are many more such skills that can be interchanged in the home to defuse jealousy.
- Parent them fairly, reprimand and reward them equally. When purchasing gifts, cater for all children and make every child feel like a favourite. When children start to feel like parents favour one over the other, resentment and bitterness start to build up. When they fight or have arguments, always listen to both sides of the stories and handle conflict impartially. Do not punish one child in front of the other, stay away from their little petty arguments and allow them to resolve matters between themselves, only stepping in only when absolutely necessary. When scolding them, address all those involved and do not punish one child in front of the other.
- Do not categorise children and relieve them of responsibility for their actions because they are boys, or girls, or taller, or shorter, or younger or older. This creates prejudice and bias. Treat them all as equal in their individuality, but with different corresponding capabilities. Create different spaces for your children and encourage them to have their own me-time.
- Desist from discussing one child with the other child in their absence, as this causes disunity and distrust. Foster a sense of cohesion in the home, where all problems are discussed and solutions found in a transparent manner with all children present. Teach your children to be kind, courteous and gentle with each other always and discourage the use of bad language or violence in the home.
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By: Thembi Hama. Image: Depositphotos