If you have more than one child or are planning to, how to handle sibling rivalry is probably on your mind, and with good reason. After all, while siblings are your children’s first friends, they can just as quickly turn into bitter rivals, too. And before you know it, you’re trying to mediate fights over everything from sharing toys to who gets to use the remote control for the TV. While a little sibling rivalry may be inevitable and harmless, it’s not something that’s completely out of your control. So before you start pulling your hair out in frustration, here are some tips that will help you handle the odd scuffle between your kids:
Start developing a bond between siblings early. While you’re pregnant with the new baby, acquaint your older child with his new sibling. Let him touch your bump, show him the sonogram, and let him talk and sing to the baby. When the baby kicks, let him feel it.
Assign a role to the older sibling. Whether it’s as a protector, comforter, or teacher, let your older child be the best big sib he can be. Start with letting him help you take care of the baby. He can be mommy’s little helper and assist in changing diapers, rocking baby to sleep, and even help with those crucial first steps. By encouraging a healthy and caring relationship early on, your child will learn to peacefully coexist with his sibling, and before you know it, they could be on their way to becoming the best of friends.
Learn to share your time. Taking care of a newborn and a toddler at simultaneously can be extremely difficult, but if you don’t manage your time with each child well, you could be spending a lot of hours trying to appease the tantrums of a jealous older child. Try to spend at least twenty minutes with your older child early in the day. This special time will help keep away any feelings of jealousy or frustration the older sibling might have towards his new sibling for the rest of the day.
Set the ground rules. Give your kids a set of rules for acceptable behavior; rules like: “No yelling in the house,” “no name-calling,” and “no slamming of doors.” Let them help you come up with some of the rules and their corresponding consequences if broken. This teaches your kids to be responsible and accountable for their behavior, and doesn’t leave any room for negotiating “fairness” or pointing fingers.
Leave them alone. If your kids are in the midst of an argument, leave them alone. They won’t learn to resolve their issues if you keep mediating for them. Getting in the middle of sibling arguments will only exacerbate the situation, especially if one child feels like you’re protecting the other.
Unless someone is in danger of being physically hurt, monitor the fight from a distance and allow your kids to come to a resolution on their own. Remember, the way your children deal with each other provides insight as to how they’ll eventually deal with others. Make sure they’re developing good social habits early on.