Monday, April 27, 2009

Sibling Rivalry

The morning fights, the teasing that escalates into arguments, the yes-no battles. If you have more than one child, you know what I am talking about – Sibling Rivalry.

Amy Bevins, Assistant Editor of Washington FAMILY Magazine, appeared this morning on the Moms Like Me segment on WUSA9 talking about Sibling Rivalry, something that most families I know deal with.

Do you have any tips on how you handle sibling rivalry? What works for you? And, what doesn’t work? Please let me know.

Amy offers the following thoughts and suggestions:

Sibling Rivalry is very common. But research actually shows that kids do learn some valuable life skills as they argue such as compromise, negotiation, controlling aggression and valuing someone else’s perspective. While these skills are important in the long run, we all know the bickering can add a lot of stress and frustration to daily life.

So how does a frustrated mom or dad cope with the fighting?

First, look at why the kids are fighting. Quite often it is because they want parental attention, are competing or are jealous. But you can also look at their stages of development. Toddlers naturally protect their things and will react when someone touches their belongings. A school age child is learning about fairness and equality and can be very black and white with regards to this. It’s the age when you’ll constantly hear “it’s not fair.” And teens are developing independence and individuality and can be resentful of things like caring for siblings or household chores that they feel impinge on their time or space.

So what can you do to survive the sibling rivalry battles?

Whenever possible, try not to get involved - verbally or emotionally, which we all know is so hard to do. But kids will come to rely on your stepping in or, if they are after attention, will work to get a rise out of you.

Try turning on some music and pretend to ignore their arguing, giving them time to settle it themselves. If they are driving you crazy, move to another room. You can also ask them to take their fighting somewhere else. Often, this takes the wind out of their sails and they settle down. Of course, your kids’ safety is critical, so try these strategies when the fighting is minor and not escalating to dangerous levels.

It is so hard not to get involved. If you do feel you just have to step in, what should you do?

Coaching the kids and teaching them to work things out is different from telling them what to do. This is where you really help the kids gain life skills.

1.First of all, separate the kids until they have calmed down. They can’t learn well and problem solve when they are all worked up.

2.Secondly, don’t focus on who is to blame. Your goal isn’t to find the culprit; it is to find a solution.

3.Encourage them to talk things through and express their feelings.

4.Lastly, try to create a follow up win-win opportunity. Can they play a game together or paint a picture. Can they do a project or a chore together? Acknowledge and reward them for their positive behaviors.

Amy’s suggestions for keeping the bickering from happening in the first place include:

•Get the kids involved in setting house ground rules for acceptable behavior and consequences for breaking the rules.

•Let your kids know that things aren’t always fair and equal. It’s a hard lesson that we all struggle with.

•Schedule special time with each child geared to his or her individual likes. It can even be something simple like doing a puzzle or going for a bike ride.

•Along with that, rather than telling your kids you love them equally, tell them specifically what you love about each of them, what makes them special. I tell my daughter that I love her energy and her creativity and my son that I love his sense of humor and caring attitude.

•And set up time to have fun as a family. It really eases tension and creates stronger bonds.

Let us know what your experience has been with this problem. We will make sure to pass along to other moms any tips you share with us.

Happy Parenting,

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