7 Things That Make Sibling Rivalry Worse
Sibling rivalry, that is, jealousy, competition and fighting between brothers and sisters is a big concern for almost all parents of two or more children. If you’ve tried EVERYTHING to get your kids to stop fighting, and they’re still going at it, have you stopped to consider that you might be jeopardizing the relationship of your kids? Here are 7 things to be aware of:
Making everything a competition
Resist the urge to make your kids compete like “Who can clean up the toys the fastest?” Try saying, “Do you think you can both pick up your toys in less than 5 minutes?” They still enjoy the challenge but this way they are encouraged to work together instead of against each other.
Comparing one sibling with the other
Saying something like “why can’t you sit and eat quietly like your sister?” might seem harmless, but those kinds of statements can create resentment in a child towards their siblings, which leads to even more sibling rivalry.
Labeling your child
Have you ever said something like “This is my athletic one and this one’s my artsy one?” Or “My first kid is the calm one and my second is a wild child”? This kind of labeling can make a child feel as if he’ll never measure up in a certain area. One child’s talent or likes shouldn’t discourage the others from that activity. They’ll be comparing their skills in the future, but it’s best not to add fuel to that fire.
Disciplining one child in front of the other
Learn to praise publicly and correct privately. When we discipline a child in front of their siblings, we embarrass them and make them extra defensive. When we’re correcting our children, we want to tear their walls down so that we can get through to them. If they’re worried about what their siblings are thinking, we can’t achieve this goal, and it only adds to their sibling rivalry.
Stifling their emotions
Have you yelled at your kids for being upset or angry or told them how they should feel?
When we tell our kids how they should feel, they learn not to trust their own emotions. Try to empathize with how they feel and help them handle it in a better way. Acknowledge their emotions and show them healthy ways to express their feelings.
Forcing them to share increases sibling rivalry
We all want our kids to share willingly and play well with others. But forcing them to share doesn’t get us closer to that goal, it only makes them bitter. Try sharing without forcing it, saying something like:
“Layla picked up that toy first. She’s going to play with it right now and then you can have a turn. But Layla, if you would like to share the toy with Ahmed now, that’s your choice. I think it would be really nice of you, but it’s up to you.”
“Hmm… you both want to play with the same toy at the same time. We only have one of those and there’s two of you. What do you guys think we should do?”
By replacing anger and annoyance with understanding and logic, most of the time they’ll share willingly insh’Allah. If they’re not listening, stick with it. Your consistency is key in transforming their behavior.
Avoid triangulation to minimize sibling rivalry
As your kids grow, it is normal that there will be conflict between them as they each try to understand themselves and the family dynamic. It is crucial that you allow your children to work out their issues with each other on their own as much as possible. This is how they will learn to understand each other and learn to compromise, which is a necessary life skill.
They may need a nudge from you once in a while to push them in the right direction, but try to resist the urge to talk or complain about one child to the others. Some parents attempt to gain control over the information flow in the home, and however good-intentioned, create indirect communication between the siblings, putting themselves in the role of the go-between.
Those parents who create these situations do it for the benefit of having everyone relating to them directly, so that they are always in the loop. However, this kind of set up can create conflict and mistrust between children – when parents will confide separately in each child, badmouth one sibling to another, it inevitably creates resentment and bad feelings, which can extend into adulthood.
For teenagers, give them the tools necessary so that they can have direct communication with each other, and talk in ways that are honest, humble and constructive. Consider holding family meetings to set and reset your expectations with your older kids.
Giving them the option to choose how to solve the problem teaches an important relationship skill. Resist the temptation to throw solutions at them and instead ask what they think they should do.
If you are keen on learning more, this is our recommended resource to help parents learn, practice and refine their skills on navigating our children’s relationships with their siblings.
If you’ve been unknowingly fostering bad feelings between your kids, it’s never too late to start doing things a different way. Take small steps towards creating a strong Muslim family. Don’t beat yourself up, just try to do better! We are all learning during our motherhood journey.