"Siblings are the people we practice on, the people who teach us about fairness and cooperation and kindness and caring - quite often the hard way" - Pamela Dugdale
We have already written about what steps to take to prepare the young kid at home for the arrival of a sibling. But the efforts of parents in this area have to be as continuous as in every other aspect of their children’s life. We are sure all of us can recall some instance of how our mother had to intervene to resolve an issue between our adult selves and our grownup sibling at the last family gathering! There is no escaping sibling rivalry, but as parents we sure can do some things to ensure that our children have adequate sibling revelry in their lives. There is no one common solution, but there sure is one common attitude, one of love, trust and empathy.
- Very young children will often vent their frustration by hitting out or throwing things. Getting angry at them will confuse them. You need to handle them firmly, but diffuse the situation; don’t add to it by losing your cool. Remove the aggressive one from the scene, even if he needs to be carried away physically. Get to the root of the problem. The child could just be craving attention from you.
- The younger child cannot see the big deal in taking the elder brother’s paints and the elder child cannot see how you can scold her for wastage and neatness and expect her to be responsible when this little brat cannot be set right! Maybe Sibling revelry is the answer to such instances of sibling rivalry. Create some situations where the same rules apply to both, irrespective of age. For instance, give them time together to paint (hand painting) where it is alright for the elder one to get messy too…maybe you could join in as well
- The younger one will always want to tag along with the elder. Make it more acceptable with the elder one by inviting over the siblings of his/her friends for the birthday bash. In the instance where the elder child cannot accompany, schedule some fun activity for him too..one parent takes the younger child to party, while the other takes the elder for a solo activity like a trip to the planetarium.
- If fighting and yelling is the way the grownups in the family resolve issues, the children are likely to believe it is the right way. If children see dialogue as the manner in which conflicts in the household are dealt with, they will attempt to do the same. Allow children to resolve their own conflicts as long as they abide by some rules like – no name calling, no yelling, no hitting.
- There will still be some instances of physical fighting. If you see some real danger, intervene. Otherwise let it be for the time being, but take away some common privilege like watching a favourite TV programme, or ice cream after dinner. Let them know that it is the manner in which they resolved their disagreement with which you have a problem; they do have the freedom to disagree.
- If the fights are on issues such as who gets to watch their TV show or who gets to play on the playstation, try and create a schedule. Encourage them to find their own ways that are fair and transparent. There will still be instances when one child is getting a raw deal, try not to interfere immediately. If you see a pattern, then you need to focus on helping the child gain confidence. It is more important to teach the child to fight for his rights than to fight on the child’s behalf
- Categorically decline to listen to one child telling tales about the other. “If your brother wants me to know about this, he will tell me.” Of course, if there is any danger or an extreme situation of a fight, children are expected to escalate the matter to the parents immediately. In the normal course in order to know what’s happening in your children’s lives, rely on methods other than having siblings spy on each other.
- Don’t make comparisons. Comparison by parents and elders leads to competition among the children, which can escalate into relationship problems in the long run. Learn to appreciate the uniqueness of each individual child. Not only are they likely to have different talents, even the personality types can vary a great deal. Not every child is a leader; some just make better team players.
- Offer genuine praise and encouragement. Help the children take pride in each other’s accomplishments. Teach them to give credit and gratitude for the help and support of the other in their own accomplishment.
The likelihood of a sibling relationship being picture perfect is as good or bad as that of any other relationship. There are some moments that challenge the bond and resolving those very issues, strengthen the bond. Remember every time your children fight, they are learning to be assertive, to stand up for their point of view and practising the very essential skills of managing conflict. Handled deftly these moments help children grow emotionally and teach them people skills that are essential for a happy life.