How to avoid sibling rivalry so your children are best friends as adults

How to avoid sibling rivalry so your children are best friends as adults

It's heartbreaking for parents when their adult children fight. Stop this by preventing sibling rivalry when they are small - here's how.

Sibling rivalry is nothing new, even though siblings are considered as best friends by blood. But if tainted with unresolved bitterness, a civil relationship may be the best that parents can hope for when their children turn into adults.

As parents, it is your duty to help your kids establish a friendly and solid bond as siblings that’ll last a lifetime. This may seem like such an impossible task, but if done early and consistently, it is achievable.

Start young

Sibling rivalry starts as early as the announcement of the second pregnancy. Your first child may feel overly jealous and possessive about sharing you with another, even if it is his sibling.

But if you make sure to involve the child in the pregnancy and birth, he should be able to accept his role as an older child and brother. Don’t forget to assure him of your love constantly too.

sibling rivaly

Nurture one another

To eliminate sibling rivalry, encourage your older child to help his younger sibling and vice versa. This may be done by asking the eldest to pick a bedtime story for his sibling to read or soothing the younger child after a fall.

Ask your little one to help out too by grabbing the bag or jacket of the older child when they are going out of the house.

Constant encouragement to help out one another is key to ensure that they'll help out each other in the future. Don't forget to thank both children for their help and and that you are so proud of them being such valuable helpers.

If your one of your goals is getting your older child to help his younger sibling, avoid ordering the eldest to do things like cleaning up a mess started by the younger one or finishing a chore that’s assigned to the other.  This would only cause complaints and may result in harbouring resentment.

Be Complimentary

Refusal for an older child to help his younger sibling often starts when there is obvious preference for the latter. To avoid this, always see your children as individuals and compliment them when appropriate.

If your older child is great in math, you can convince him to help his sibling by saying “You are very good with numbers and I want [younger sibling] to be as good as you. Can you please show your sister/brother how to count just like how I showed you?”.

Also, offer praises such as “You made your sibling so happy. I am proud of you” whenever you see your older child assist his younger sibling without requiring cues from you.

Be patient

Getting your older child to help his younger sibling on his own initiative may take a while, so be patient. Make sure that your children continuously bond so they can gradually get used to each other. Spending fun times together is usually how close relationships between siblings start.

sibling rivalry

Never compare

If you want your older child to help his younger sibling, avoid comparison at all costs.

Even though your eldest is naughty and often gets into trouble, never ever compare him to your quiet and studious youngest child. Comparison, even when done unintentionally, can be damaging to your child’s fragile ego and emotions.

Additionally, do away with labeling your children as the Brains, the Black Sheep, or the Shy One. These labels never helped any child.

Don't let power struggles escalate

Power struggles are part and parcel of how siblings relate. Often, this is because siblings are of different ages and thus receive 'unequal' privileges. How often have you heard your youngest one wail that it's "unfair" she can't stay up late with her older siblings?

Whenever possible, de-escalate these power conflicts. For example, make sure your elder children don't taunt the younger ones about the activities they can't yet do. 

In addition, older siblings typically have a certain advantage from having more experience, better language skills, and so forth. Ensure that they aren't being overly domineering to the younger ones, who might not yet be able to stand up for themselves.

How to avoid sibling rivalry so your children are best friends as adults

Ask what support they need

For parents of older kids, get each child to talk about how they see their relationship with their siblings. If they are facing troubles, you can ask them what kind of help they'd want from you.

This fosters an environment of frank discussion that your children will be able to draw on many years down the road. 

Don't play favourites

Children are exceptionally attuned to any whiff of preference. Though you might not intend to play favourites, you might find yourself relating more to one child, and thus spending more time with them than their other siblings. 

It's worth being a little more careful about noticing and praising each of your children equally. Make sure each of your kids know you're playing on their team — or rather, that you won't take sides against any of them. 

How to avoid sibling rivalry so your children are best friends as adults

Empathize with them

It's tempting to lecture your oldest child for bullying his younger siblings, or scold your little one for lying that "he did it, not me!"

However, a little empathy goes a long way. Try seeing things from their perspective and let them know you understand why they are behaving this way — they will trust you more when they see you understand them. 

Buy time

You might feel the need to settle sibling rivalries immediately, but it's better not to discipline in the heat of the moment. Quick responses aren't always necessary, especially if your children are older.

Rather than laying down the law there and then, get your children to calm down and come back for discussion after a certain time. The downtime will allow both you and them to mull over their feelings and respond with more clarity. 

How did you convince your older child to help his or her younger sibling? Please leave a comment, we’d love to hear from you!

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Written by

Karen Mira

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