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Child Development

Sibling Rivalry: Positive Ways to Keep the Peace at Home

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Lockdown mode equals lots of fun family time, right? Not so. For many of us, war is breaking out between our kids daily. Can we blame them? Cabin fever makes even the best of us cranky!

Here are some tips to keep the peace at home with young children.  

1. Acknowledge the times they do play well together

The tears, cries and screams are the ones that usually get our attention, as well as our reaction. It’s time to flip the cards around. Experts say that giving kids positive attention is way more effective in changing behavior. 

Pay attention to when your kids are playing nicely together. Acknowledge their efforts when you notice them resolving conflicts. Praise them effectively using specific language. For example,“I heard the two of you taking turns with that toy duck. It looks like you’re both having so much fun and playing well together. Well done!” 

2. Treat them fairly, not equally

In our quest to avoid favouritism, we work hard to treat our kids equally. The kids all get extra screen time on weekends, one scoop of ice cream each, same amount of house chores every day… but is that really fair?

In today’s bubble-wrapped generation, we tend to feel guilty when a child is left disappointed. However, our kids are unique with differing needs. And we should treat them accordingly.

Always make  clear the reason for the ‘unfair situation.’ Empathise with the child’s feelings. For example, “I understand that you feel sad because you can’t have ice cream today, when your siblings can. But you are unwell. You can have some when you get better.”

Life comes with its dose of disappointing moments (and unfairness). Make these moments opportunities for character building and to emotionally prepare them for the real world!

3. Help siblings come up with their own solutions

Getting our kids to solve their own disagreements develops perspective-taking and problem-solving skills. Plus, there’s the added bonus of you not having to play mediator all day!

Instead of dishing out solutions, work on building their ability to resolve conflicts independently:  

  • Narrate what you see without judging or taking sides. For example, “I see Zane crying, and I see paint on his toy train. Sofia, I see paint on your hands. Would you like to share with me what happened?” 
  • Repeat back both grievances. This gives perspective and allows for empathy.  
  • Ask if anyone can come up with a helpful solution. 

You might need to provide prompts in the beginning. However with practice, our kids will be able to use these conflict resolution strategies by themselves. 

4. Have fun family activities that encourage cooperation and teamwork

Have lots of fun together! Consciously choose activities that involve cooperation. For example, charades or team-based board games. You can check out this link for more great ideas. When kids often engage in supportive behaviors during games, we can expect some spillover effects into real life.

Even household chores can be turned into fun activities for young kids. Purposefully get them to work together towards a unified goal. For example, one child can wash the cutleries, and the other can dry them. Offer a little reward in the end to sweeten the deal. 

5. Labelling your child is disabling

One way we  unknowingly pit kids against each other is by the over usage of labels. We inadvertently draw comparisons between our kids when we label one as “the artsy one” or the “social one.” Constant comparison is a sure-fire way to lead feelings of jealousy and competition between siblings. 

Instead of over comparing our children, focus on building positive attributes. Cheer on behaviour involving cooperation, support, and kindness. Let’s get the siblings rooting for each other rather than competing for our approval!

So there you go, a few ways to maintain the peace in the house during this lockdown…and beyond.
Let’s do this!

Elaine is a mummy of two who moved from the financial world to become an early childhood educator. She loves travelling, books and her cup of tea to unwind after a long day of diapers, school runs and pretend play.