If your kids are constantly bickering, competing with each other or if jealousy is an issue, try these sibling rivalry solutions that actually work. Hallelujah …
It’s enough to make parents pull their own hair out. Relentless battles between brothers and sisters over anything and everything – from what to watch on the box to wanting whatever it is the other has, competitive behaviour and jealousy. It’s frustrating for parents – not to mention stressful – and can make any family bonding session turn ugly in an instant. Here, parents share their clever tried-and-tested strategies for managing their kids’ rivalry. Read, learn and initiate Project Peace now…
The Jealous Sibling
Peta, 33, knew her child Luca was having adjustment issues to the new baby early on. “I was pregnant with my second child, Stella, when Luca was three,” explains Peta. “Luca started acting out more as my belly grew, even getting rough with me on occasions and trying to hit my bump. When Stella was born she was all consuming and it was a very difficult transition. I could see that Luca’s jealousy was increasing and he felt like he wasn’t getting the attention he did previously. His behaviour began regressing – he’d act like a baby, began throwing major tantrums and was very rough towards Stella. I sought advice from friends who had similar experiences and used all their tricks, which have worked!”
“We read bedtime stories to Luca that had positive sibling storylines, and would talk about the themes together and how much fun it could be to have a little sister. I organised playdates with other parents who had multiple children so Luca could see positive examples of sibling relationships. Letting him hold Stella on the couch and giving him positive reinforcement for helping me by handing me nappies and Stella’s dummy was great for making him feel included and needed. I’d even encourage him to choose Stella’s outfits for the day! One of the biggest positives to come out of it though was encouraging Luca to spend more fun time with his Dad and strengthen their bond. I think this made him less reliant on me, and when we were together he felt like he was a helpful and protective ‘big brother’. We also made sure that we had one-on-one time with Luca too, so he he’d have our undivided attention and felt special.”
The Competitive Siblings
A new marriage and instant step-sister can be a tough transition for any only-child to make, as Amanda, 35, and mum to Ava, 8, soon realised. “My ex-husband and I separated when Ava was just one, and I met my new husband, Phil, when Ava was 4. Initially Ava was ok, but the more Phil and his daughter, Bec, who is also 8, started spending time with us, the worse things became. I realised Ava had gone from having me all to herself for years, to having no one-on-one time with me. Ava and Bec became competitive at everything. They’d compare how many dolls each other had. They’d argue over what to watch on TV, who was the fastest runner and even who could read better. And there was this constant issue of Bec always wanting what Ava was playing with. It was exhausting! I think they’re just both naturally competitive and always will be, but Phil and I did employ a few tactics that have helped.
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“When we moved in together, we ensured the girls have their own bedroom and time to themselves when needed, and we ensure that we have one-on-one time with our daughters separately every week. We also do a lot of ‘turn taking’, so they have equal decision-making on where we’ll go for dinner, what we’ll watch on TV and where we’ll go on weekends. If one child wants what the other is playing with, they either had to do a fair trade – so they can each choose something of the other’s to play with, or respect that the sister was already playing with it and choose something else. One of the biggest and most positive solutions we found was finding common interests for the girls, that weren’t competitive and helped them bond. They both love the Shopkins toys, so play creatively free from ‘winning’ outcomes and love dancing in the lounge room to Kay Perry and Taylor Swift together! The other thing we do is constantly explain the benefits of having a sister – they have someone to play with, stick up for them, encourage them and they can teach each other things.”
The Bickering Siblings
Squabbling, arguing and sly nudging when dad’s not looking is exhausting – there’s no two ways about it. James, 44, knows the drill. With three boys under 7, he says there are times when he can’t leave the boys alone for five seconds!
“We practice ‘positive parenting’ now,” he says. “I know one of my boys is prone to hitting, kicking and pushing at any opportunity, so we have star charts for all of them and positive behaviour wins a star – and if they get enough stars at the end of the week, they get $10 to choose a toy from the shops.
“They get stars for speaking nicely, sharing, resolving conflicts on their own, playing well, letting the other boys speak without interrupting, making their beds and other positive behaviour.
“Bickering and hitting or other naughty behaviour means a star is removed, but they always get plenty of warning that this will happen beforehand. If they keep bickering, we calmly sit down together and each child has their turn explaining what happened, so everyone has a fair say. I don’t ever yell or lecture – it doesn’t help. We try to encourage win-win outcomes so they all have something to gain from playing nicely together and they each have a turn at offering a solution that keeps them all happy. And I encourage them to think about things they could have done differently to avoid arguments.
“The instigators go to separate time out zones. They know the rules and understand the consequences if they break them – and I never relent on punishment either! If they are really bad, they have their iPad taken off them, which is their favourite item. But equally, they know the rewards of positive behaviour. We get to do fun things together as a family, and going to the shop each week with $10 to choose whatever they like is a small price to pay for encouraging positive behaviour!”
What solutions do you have for managing sibling rivalry? Share your tips in the comment box below to help other parents?