In many ways having more than one child is easier than having just one, but here’s something that will probably challenge you – dealing with sibling rivalry. Imagine this: I’m trying to put my 2-year-old to sleep while my other two kids are happily playing together. All of a sudden, the door opens and a head sticks in. “Mum, she’s being rude.” I don’t react, so the door closes just to reopen a second later. “Mum, he said I was stupid!” I let them know I’ll be there in a minute. Not even half a minute has passed and I hear screams. The door opens again. “Mum, she pushed me!” By that time my 2-year-old thinks it’s all an exciting game, sleep has been forgotten and I’m struggling to remain calm.
Does it have to be this way?
If you’re asking yourself if there’s anything you could have done differently to ensure your kids get along better, take heart. While sibling rivalry can be worse in some families than others, it is completely normal. Your children are still learning to adjust to different personalities and to get along with others. And they want your love and attention.
While you won’t be able to avoid sibling rivalry altogether, there are some things you can do to retain your sanity and help your children be friends with each other.
Focus on the positive behaviour
Your children’s fighting and bickering is a way to get your attention, and a powerful one. It’s much harder to remember to pay attention to your children when they’re playing happily, leaving you alone to do your own thing. But if you make it a habit to notice when they’re nice to each other, ask questions and be interested in what they’re doing, you’ll experience longer peaceful periods. If your kids are getting your attention anyway, why fight?
Spend one-on-one time with each child
We’re all busy and one-on-one time can be hard to arrange, but it’s well worth it. Watch your child soak up your attention and it’ll warm up your heart. It’s good to have longer dates (a few hours or a day) once in a while, but if you can find just a few minutes every day to spend with each child, you’ll see them become happier and more relaxed.
Encourage them to sort out their differences
Sometimes things escalate out of control and you’ll need to step in, but in most cases children are capable of sorting things out by themselves. Give them the tools to resolve conflict (when they’re calm) and remind them to use what they know in the heat of the moment, but don’t take sides or offer solutions.
By using these strategies you’ll be turning sibling rivalry into an opportunity to grow your bond with your children and to help them develop conflict resolution skills that will serve them for life.
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