Remember the days where you’d have your friends and family over to see your precious little bundles of joy when they were younger? Your eldest child (most likely a toddler or preschooler) would adorably hold your youngest child in his tiny arms and everyone would audibly let out an extended “awwww”. Then grandparents and aunts and uncles would queue the cameras–it was quite a sight to behold.
Nowadays, the situation between your eldest and youngest (and middles in bigger families) is probably best described in the following dialogues:
Eldest: “MUM! He/she won’t shut up! Tell him/her to leave me alone!”
Youngest: [Sniffling and crying] “Mummy…he/she called was picking on me and then took my toy!!!”
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Yep. The good old days of well behaved, loving kids is over, and in its’ place comes the unenjoyable days of sibling feuds and rivalry. While you may want to sit back and ruminate on how your kids cold possibly grow to hate or compete with each other so much and so often, it’s far more productive to find a solution to the problem.
Luckily, today we’re going to be analyzing the wise words and advice of Dr. Jennifer Powell-Lunder, Psy.D. She’s a successful clinical psychologist specializing in work with tweens, teens, young adults, and their families. She’s also co-author of the book Teenage as a Second Language (Adams Media, 2010) and the creator of www.itsatweenslife.com(link is external) and co-creator ofwww.talkingteenage.com(link is external).
Check out her tips and tricks for dealing with and defusing sibling feuds and rivalry between you kids!
Calm down the competitiveness
“Despite the developmental influences, you do possess the power to take sibling rivalry down a few pegs. The home environment serves as a base camp for your kids,” says Powell-Lunder. “It is here that behaviour is modelled, moulded, directed, and re-directed. A few mindful adjustments can make all the difference.”
In other words, the foundation of defusing the problem starts with you, mums and dads. Moreover, it starts with setting the ground rules in your home. Lay down the law at home, and it’ll go a long way!
Avoid comparisons at all costs
“Most parents affirm the importance of emphasizing each child’s individual assets. Quite often without ill-intent however, parents encourage their kids to compete against each other. If the competition in your house has gotten out of control then it is important to heed this suggestion,” claims Dr. Powell-Lunder.
“When you innocently make comments such as ‘Your brother already cleaned his room,’ you send the message that it is game on,” she adds.
Don’t green-light any competition and comparisons whatsoever, parents.
Parents should present as a unified front
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No matter what kind of household or households your kids live in, you can’t afford to encourage (intentional or otherwise) the rivalry between your kids. Powell-Lunder explains further how this can be implemented by parents, even if they rely on co-parenting.
“If you are co-parenting your kids it is important that there is consistency. Even if you are not with the other parent, unified responses make a huge difference in this and other situations. When you both agree on what is acceptable behaviour you increase the chances that your children will follow the rules,” Dr. Powell-Lunder says.
Consistent consequences are the key to clarification
“It is understandable that if your kids always seem to be at it with each other that it can get exhausting consistently redirecting them. In order to send a clear message regarding their behaviour, however, it is imperative that you try to remain consistent in implementing consequences,” claims Powell-Lunder.
“This is particularly important if your kids tend to be physically aggressive towards one another. Once they realize you are always on high alert you decrease the chances that they will continue to hurt each other,” she adds.
Don’t stray from your parenting ways. Your kids need to be ever aware of the consequences they will face if they feud with their sibling, or become overly aggressive or competitive. Don’t go easier on your younger sibling, and don’t go too over the top on your older children.
Don’t dismiss, assume all instead
Accoring to Powell-Ludnder, “Quite commonly when kids come complaining about an egregious act committed against them by a sibling, a parent will offer that since it was not witnessed, they will refrain from a response. On other occasions a parent will make an assessment of the situation based on history, and/or age, size, etc. This often leads to complaints of injustice and in turn encourages animosity toward siblings who clearly already view each other as the enemy.”
How does she suggestparents deal with these sitautions? “[T]he simple and often most effective response is to assume all are at fault. Although initially animosity between the siblings may increase, when they begin to gain insight they will realize that waging war against each other reaps few benefits because your response tells them they are in this together and will be treated as such.”
Encourage empowerment through collaboration
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Psychologist Lev Vygotsky promoted the principal of scaffolding. He surmised that with just enough assistance children could reach their greatest potential. Vygotsky fathomed that adults and/or peers can provide such support and guidance. The individual strengths of each sibling offer a unique opportunity to engage in such collaboration.
In Powell-Lunder’s words, “When parents highlight how each sibling can help the other, they encourage a dynamic of cooperation instead of competition. Few things feel more empowering to tweens in particular than competency. By capitalizing on strengths parents afford their tweens the opportunity to feel important and accomplished in role of teaching and guiding. This negates or at least lessens the need to challenge and/or conquer siblings who are perceived as competition.”
Reinforce role modelling
“In situations in which one sibling tends to act as if the other(s) is invisible, parents should focus on the importance of acting as a role model. Most often in this scenario an older sibling ignores one or all of her younger brothers and sisters. Parents should ask the older sibling to step-up. The trick here is to set the proper tone so that older siblings present as caring and supportive elders, not ruthless, overbearing dictators,” says Dr. Powell-Lunder.
Dr. Powell-Lunder’s original article first appeared on Psychology Today
Republished with permission from: theAsianparent Philippines
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