Growing up with a sibling means your child will always have a playmate and companion. However, sibling relationships can also have their ups and downs.
Your children can be best friends one day, but enemies the next. They are different individuals with different personalities, so they may not get along at all times. A child may complain about favoritism, a feeling that the other or others receive special treatment.
Sibling rivalry and jealousy is very common, but it’s still important to find ways to control bickering and fighting.
The good news is that the fighting doesn’t last forever and the behavior usually lessens over time. Even so, there are strategies you can use to reduce sibling rivalry and jealousy. Here are five ideas to try.
1. Don’t compare your children
You undoubtedly want all of your children to excel and do well, and it’s best to remain fair in your treatment of each child. If one child excels in academics or sports, you may use this child as an example to motivate your other children to perform better. There’s nothing wrong with encouraging your kids, but there is a wrong and a right way to offer this encouragement.
Statements like, “Why can't you get good grades like your brother?” or, “Why don't you help around the house like your sister?” can create tension and resentment between siblings, especially when children already feel like they can’t measure up to their siblings.
If you want a child to work harder and do better, try to express your concerns without making comparisons. For example, “I’d appreciate it if you studied more and did better in school,” or, “I’d like for you to take the initiative and help out more around the house.”
Don’t forget to give encouragement and praise when you are proud of your child for something they accomplished. Positive reinforcement is healthy! Just don’t use it to make another child feel like they are not as good.
2. Be impartial
Siblings are going to fight. There’s no way around this. Your children spend a lot of time together. They live together and play together, so there’s going to be disagreements and arguments that come up.
As a parent, it’s important that you let your children work out their differences when possible. It’s also important that you try not to take sides. The kids might run and vent their frustrations to you and drag you into their conflict. Sometimes, you may have to intervene. But before jumping in and exercising your parental muscle, make sure you listen and provide an unbiased ear.
Get both sides of the story before jumping to conclusions, giving suggestions, or handing out punishments. If one child feels you always take the other’s side and never listen to their side of the story, it can increase jealousy.
3. Spend alone time with each child
You love all of your children, but you may share a special bond with one in particular. If you have more in common with this child, such as similar interests and hobbies, you might naturally gravitate toward each other.
This is normal and understandable. But if a child feels ignored or if it appears that you would rather spend time with the other kids, it can breed jealousy. While you may not admit openly that there can be favoritism, your children may pick up on small hints based on things you say or do. Due to this jealousy, your children may fight more as a result. Instead, make an effort to give each child their fair share of quality time and attention to show your equal love.
It can be difficult to divide your time evenly when everyone's vying for attention. What you can do is set aside a few hours every week or every month for each child. You can spend uninterrupted time with your child and develop a stronger connection.
4. Acknowledge positive behavior
If you notice an increase in sibling rivalry and jealousy, you might be able to reduce the problem by acknowledging positive behavior that occurs between the children.
Rather than only speak up when the children disagree or argue, commend the kids for cooperating and getting along with each other. Maybe you observe an older child helping the younger ones with their homework, or perhaps your children jump in and help each other with their chores.
The actions might be minor, but don’t hold back letting the kids know how much you appreciate their efforts to work together.
If the rivalry and jealousy was out of hand yet you’ve noticed considerable improvement in recent weeks or days, you can even reward the children with a little treat. Allow them to stay up a little longer on the weekends, or take them out for dessert. If you reinforce and acknowledge positive behavior, it can encourage your kids to continue to make progress.
5. Help children discover their unique strengths
Sibling rivalry and jealousy can develop when one child has a talent or special skill that the others don’t possess. If one child excels as a musician, dancer, or athlete, they might get a lot of attention from family and friends because of their accomplishments. The other children may feel lost in their sibling’s shadow.
If you suspect this type of jealousy, remind your children that everyone has their own unique talents, and then help them discover their strengths. Are they interested in playing a musical instrument or playing a sport? Or maybe your child has an artsy side and would benefit from learning how to draw or paint.
If you can steer your children down a certain path and nurture their individual talents, this might reduce rivalry and jealousy.
Kids are going to be kids. Siblings sometimes compete with each other. So don’t be overly concerned if a mild case of sibling rivalry and jealousy occurs. This is normal behavior. Try to implement the above strategies to minimize tension in your household.