Stop Referee Parenting Advice Eliminate Sibling Rivalry

Everyone who has grown up in a family with more than one child knows about sibling rivalry. It does not matter if there are 2 children, 4 children, or 6 children in the family. There will be some degree of sibling rivalry. Sometimes the older children are jealous of how spoiled the younger children are and how much mom and dad waits on them. The younger children envy the privileges that the older ones get. In all of the cases of sibling rivalry, parents often wish there was somewhere for them to turn to get parenting advice on how to handle the battle that rages on in the family.

It also does not matter about the gender involved. Two boys become competitors in sports, in grades, and in getting girls and ways suitable to boys. The girls compete in more girlish past-times and pursuits. Boys and girls are competitive with each other different than when it is the same gender. The older versus the younger children is a common form of rivalry.

Understanding why sibling rivalry occurs in the first place is the beginning of how to handle it. There are many reasons why sibling rivalry occurs including competitiveness and jealousy among brothers and sisters. Sometimes there is a real reason for the rivalry and sometimes it is just a perceived one.

In families, when a new child comes into the family, the other children may react to the loss of attention that happens when a new brother or sister is born. Competitiveness develops when a child feels that the parent loves another child’s more. Perhaps the child believes that his brother or sister is the “favorite” child. Perhaps some of you have experienced this in your own families.

Are you familiar with positive attention versus negative attention? If you are a “good” child and behave well, then you get recognized for doing good; however if you are “bad” child then you will also get attention for doing bad things. The good child works hard to receive positive approval because it feels good and they feel loved when the parent notices something good that he or she has done. The reverse occurs for the bad child. He or she strives for the parent’s attention that accompanies the discipline. This may seem strange, but negative attention to this child feels better than no attention at all. It provides them with the reason that they act out.

Situations that often make the parent feel like they want to scream is another aspect of sibling rivalry. One child finds a way to get another child in trouble. This may be accomplished when a child who is jealous decided to “tattle” on his brother or sister. A violation of the parent’s rules has occurred and one child wants to blame it on the other so they will get into trouble. It may be a he said–she said situation. The parent is called upon to act as referee or judge.

Children will even make up lies about a brother or sister when they believe that the other child is the “favored” child and can do no wrong in the eyes of the parent. This may occur when the child believes that the parents do not discipline fairly. Again, this calls on the parent to judge who is telling the truth.

Most people look back at sibling rivalry as a negative aspect of growing up. Parents believe it to be the cause of many of the problems that they had when rearing their children. When you look back at how the sibling rivalry influenced your behavior, you may realize that it contributed to who you are today. In some cases, it may have made you stronger or more alert to the effect others can have on you.

Psychologists often believe that it has a positive result in that it helps you to learn how to resolve conflict. Parents may have insisted that you learn how to “fight fairly” with words instead of with fists.

Here is a recommendation that many child psychologists make when consulted. Do not intervene every time your children get into it with each other. Let your children fight their own battles until they learn how to come up with a solution between them. They know that their sibling is not going away, so they must come up with a way to live together. They need to develop healthy conflict-resolution techniques that they can carry into their mature relationships.

Of course, as a parent you cannot allow their battles to become violent. They cannot abuse each other by hitting and name calling. You will find that as they get older, this behavior can escalate into real fights and using very foul language. What you teach them when they are four is sometimes easier than allowing that behavior to escalate and become much worse when they are fourteen. If that behavior goes unchecked, you may have lost your opportunity to stop it.

The children must learn to love their siblings and appreciate how different siblings can be. The parents should encourage them to learn how to get along and to forgive one another when they cause each other hurt.

As a parent you must love each of your children as individuals and appreciate their differences. They will feel loved and appreciated and do not need to compete with their siblings at an unhealthy level. By loving them and showing your love for them, you decrease their need to abuse each other. They won’t need to fight for your time and attention.

The secret really is not to treat each child the same, but treat them according to their individual needs. When you enforce house rules, make sure you apply them fairly and evenly. Make sure that when you discipline you dole out punishment that fits their age and maturity and also fits the crime. Make the punishment fit the child. For instance, a social child hates to be alone–send them to their room. A child who is more introverted and enjoys being alone–make them sit on the step near the family room.

The end of our discussion is near and is something that you probably already know. Do not compare one child to another. Don’t ever say “Why aren’t you more like your brother Dan or sister Joan?” This is a surefire way to damage your child’s self-esteem. All your children should be encouraged to develop their own personalities, talents, and self-confidence so they can mature into healthy adults.

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