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Family Topics



 Sibling Rivalry

 Symptoms of sibling rivalry may  include: constant criticisms, bickering between children, tale telling, one child tries to be the best, one child has more skills than the other child, etc. 
Rivalry is natural and a certain amount is healthy, but too much and family-life becomes intolerable for parents.  

It is useful to look at some practices that promote rivalry and some that discourage it.

Classic rivalry motivators:

*  Praise one child and compare the one with problems to his brother or sister
* Be harder on one child than another when they misbehave (often the eldest)

Ways of dealing with rivalry

* Accept children’s individual differences. This is the crucial point for reducing sibling rivalry. Your acceptance of differences will determine the degree of competitiveness between children.

* Recognize their role in the family. Children will adopt different roles in the family – one may be the peacemaker, another the funny person and another the helper. While trying to encourage each child to make a positive contribution accept their own ways of being family members.

*  Focus on the deed not the dude. Don’t praise them but focus your comments on the process rather than the results, the act not the actor, the performer rather than the performance.

*  Put them in the same boat when they misbehave. Be willing for all children to experience the consequences of a child’s misbehavior. For instance, if one child is noisy in the car then they all miss an activity if you return home.

*  Focus on solutions not the fight. When children fight and argue give ideas and strategies to resolve their problem rather than sorting out the fight. Give them thinking time before talking to them and allow them to cool off before intervening.

*  Introduce family meetings at age six.. Through regular meetings teach children a conflict resolution process. You can also give children an opportunity to impact on family decision-making through meetings. It is my opinion that family meetings are the single most effective factor in reducing rivalry between siblings and ensuring harmonious relationships between family members.

*  The family that plays together stays together. Have enjoyable family activities such as games, and family rituals, such as mealtimes. These rituals help children feel that they belong to something solid – a family.


In summary, parents need to treat each child as an individual and avoid taking sides during disagreements. Although it isn't easy to teat each child equally, it is a must if you expect to do away with most forms of sibling rivalry.  Seek help for severe problems at the beginning and don't allow them to promote hard feelings and destroy sibling relationships.


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